Yuri Foreman: 'I'm Looking Forward to This Fight' With Miguel Cotto
A rabbinical student who was born in Gomel, Belarus, the 29-year-old Yuri Foreman defeated Puerto Rico's Daniel Santos in November to improve to 28-0 with eight knockouts and take his WBA junior middleweight (154 pounds) crown.
In doing so, Foreman became the first Israeli to win a world boxing title, not to mention the first soon-to-be Rabbi to do so.
Foreman did not fight on the Sabbath due to his faith -- a fact that was evident when Foreman took the ring against Santos at 6:30 on Saturday night. The Jewish Sabbath runs from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.
The story of Foreman, whose first name, in English translation is "George," has been thrust to the forefront of the boxing world.
A recent subject of an A-1 story in the Los Angeles Times, Foreman discussed with FanHouse, in this Q&A, how he is using his championship to reach children and students, and talked about the irony of his upcoming, June 5 title defense against Miguel Cotto,being shared with a bar mitzvah party at Yankees Stadium.
FanHouse: With all of the recent attention, does it feel as if you've been thrust into the forefront of boxing in general?
Yuri Foreman: Yeah, compared to before November, it's been like that. But I guess that that's normal, and that's what comes with all of the hard work that I've been putting in. I've been able to take that success into the ring.
FH: Have you been able to do any of the things you've wanted to do as far as delivering your message from within your religious faith and toward the healing you hope to achieve in the Middle East -- all as a byproduct of being a world boxing champion?
Foreman: Right now, besides boxing, and putting boxing aside, I go to the yeshivas [educational institutions unique to classical Judaism,] I study my rabbinical program. I do visit yeshivas and schools, and do a lot of talking to kids.
I hope to give them some type or some kind of form of inspiration. Right now, that's some of the work, and that is what I'm doing.
FH: What are the age groups or ranges in age of kids have you spoken to?
Foreman: It varies. From 10-to-12, to 18, 19, 20 years old. Some sixth, seventh, eighth-graders and higher. And there have been some college kids too. Mostly in New York, right in that area.
FH: Any question or questions that have been particularly striking to you, perhaps how you reconcile the violence in the ring and the notion of peace in the Middle East?
Foreman: Mostly the questions are like, 'How do I combine being a boxer and my religion,' you know, that's often the primary question. Basically, it's many kids. Young kids.
They have whatever dreams that they have -- being an actor, being an athlete, or being a musician. I make sure that I let them know that you can combine your dreams with your spiritual activities in Judaism. It's necessary.
Like, you have to be close to God and Judaism, and religion. Actually, not necessarily only Jewish kids, but non-Jewish kids as well [need to be attached to a form of faith].
FH: Is the question of reconciliation an easier one for you to understand now that you've done it than it is to relate that notion to others?
Foreman: It is something that presents challenges to explain it. But, you know, for example, for myself, in the beginning, I had to grow to prove it to myself. But now that I'm a world champion, I can see the result, you know.
And many kids can see it as well. They can see someone who is successful, and, basically, blending those two worlds.
FH: What do you think of the irony of you -- a soon-to-be Rabbi -- fighting a world championship at Yankees' Stadium in an event set up by your Jewish promoter, Bob Arum, and involving a kid celebrating his bar mitzvah party all on June 5 at Yankees Stadium?
Foreman: [Laughs for about 15 seconds.] It's very ironic. To have a potential problem with my first title defense being the fact that someone is having a bar mitzvah there on the same night. I can tell you that the bar mitzvah kid is definitely going to remember that one.
FH: What sort of night do you hope to give this kid on the night of the Miguel Cotto fight?
Foreman: You know, according to Jewish tradition, you're getting into adulthood. Right now, there is going to be a bar mitzvah ceremony [in the morning,] and he's going to experience the fight [at night,] first-hand.
He'll see both parallels. You can celebrate your manhood, and then, you can see the two men -- two fighters -- doing their business. Two fighters, basically, boxing.
FH: How close to being done is the Miguel Cotto fight?
Foreman: I know that it's close. I don't know the details. I have a feeling that it's going to happen on June 5. I think it's going to happen. I don't know the details regarding how close or how far.
I'm looking forward to this fight, and it's a great opportunity for me to fight a historic fight in Yankees Stadium. It's a great opportunity to fight a great fighter like Miguel Cotto.
FH: Is there anyone on your record whose style you can compare favorably to that of Miguel Cotto's?
Foreman: No, I can't. He's very different. Actually, all of my opponents vary in style and I have had to train differently for each fight and take a different approach.
And Miguel Cotto is just as different. He's a terrific fighter, and a great champion, and I'll have to have a different approach to him as well.
FH: What does Miguel Cotto bring to the table?
Foreman: Miguel Cotto definitely brings in a lot of experience. He's been in some very big fights, and so that's what he has. In terms of strength and style, you know, Miguel Cotto is very good overall. His strength and his speed.
FH: Having fought on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto, what did you see in that fight from ringside, up close and personal, from your next opponent?
Foreman: I saw the same Miguel -- always coming forward. Always fighting according to a game plan, I guess. He stuck to it, and he showed a lot of discipline in the ring. It's a very tough task, again. He has good punching power.
FH: Do you feel as if you are the underdog?
Foreman: I don't go into that, and I don't give in to things like being the underdog or the favorite. I just go to the gym, and I train to work on myself -- to get myself better and to get my job done.
FH: When do you believe that you will begin training for this fight?
Foreman: I'm already, pretty much, going to the gym -- the Gleason's Gym in New York. Every day, I'm in the gym. But about two months before the fight, my training is going to get more intensified.
FH: I understand that, in addition to your regular trainers, Joe Greer, and, assistant, Pedro Saiz, you are bringing in Emanuel Steward to help out? Can you define their roles?
Foreman: My corner stays the same. I'm not changing pretty much anything. Emanuel, I believe, is going to come to New York and we'll have an opportunity to have him for a couple of weeks before the fight. Definitely, he's a great trainer.
Perhaps he can add something and I can learn something from him, and that's about it.
FH: Is there anything specific that your manager, Murray Wilson, was looking to add by bringing in Emanuel Steward?
Foreman: Murray was reaching out to Manny, and it's great to have a legendary trainer to be giving me some training. But again, I'm looking forward to it. But I don't have any specifics. I'm open to anything.
FH: Citing, in part, your height [5-foot-10] and reach, Manny Pacquiao bypassed you, among others, as an opponent in favor of Joshua Clottey.
What do you believe you showed him over the course of your victory over Daniel Santos -- a fairly lopsided win during which you dropped Santos twice?
Foreman: I pretty much showed myself that I should be more aggressive, but I didn't surprise myself that I can hit. I always knew that I could hit, but it was just a matter of putting good things together -- boxing and being aggressive.
And Pacquiao, listen, is such a great fighter in my eyes. Really, he's pretty much the pound-for-pound best. And that's a great compliment when it's coming from him that he's considering me as a fighter or an opponent. That's a great honor.
FH: You heard the Puerto Rican fans cheering for Daniel Santos when you fought him in Las Vegas, and you overcame that. Now, you are fighting a Puerto Rican fighter for the second time, in Miguel Cotto, and you were booed when you and he were introduced in New York when Puerto Rican Juan Manuel Lopez dethroned Steven Luevano.
What have you learned about the Puerto Rican pride?
Foreman: As it applies to Puerto Rican people, I admire, first of all, how supportive they are of their fighters. It's like that in baseball, and it's like that in boxing. I really do appreciate that and it's great to see.
No matter where it is, they're buying tickets, and they're coming and they're supporting their fighters. But there are going to be a few Puerto Ricans cheering for me as well.
There are a few Puerto Rican fighters at Gleason's Gym who are going to come and support me -- at least that is what they have told me.
FH: Will you do anything between now and the fight to promote yourself within the Jewish community, and if so, what sort of numbers do you expect to see in terms of of people coming to support you on the night that you face Miguel Cotto?
Foreman: I hope that we're going to equal the Puerto Rican fans, you know? I hope so. I'm definitely going to participate in trying to promote the fight in the Jewish community.
There is a big Jewish population in the area, just like there is a lot of Puerto Rican support in the area. I hope the Jewish community -- the Russian Jewish community -- will come and support me.