Yuri Foreman in the NYT

Yuri Foreman's stance isn't the only thing about him that's orthodox. I was intrigued by today's New York Times article about Foreman and his faith. It seems Foreman is not just a serious practicing Jew (like his manager Bob Arum), but also a Rabbi in training at IYYUN, a Jewish institute in Brooklyn, where he attends classes regularly and studies the Talmud. "Boxing and Judaism go side by side," he reported to the NYT, "I would love to be a world champion and a rabbi."

If you haven't seen him fight yet, Foreman is an undefeated junior middleweight (24-0) with impressive ring intelligence, counterpunching speed, and considerable heart and tenacity. He's fighting Mexican power puncher Saul Roman, who's 28-4 (24 KO's) tonight on the same card as Joshua Clottey (33-2) v. Jose Luis Cruz (34-3-2), which will be televised on the Versus Network.

He started boxing as a seven-year-old tyke in Belarus (at the time, a part of the Soviet Union) and immigrated with his family to Israel, where he went on to earn three national boxing championships. He later moved to Brooklyn, where he still lives, boxes, and studies Jewish mysticism and scripture. Though undefeated, he's relatively untested as a pro--his biggest win probably being his tactical victory over the favored Anthony Thompson on the undercard of Judah vs. Cotto.

At one point Zab Judah was referred to rather ridiculously as "the best Jewish fighter of all time," by C.J. Sullivan of New York Press. This opinion is not only historically short-sighted but factually debatable as well, since Judah, who fans will recall thanked "his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" after his fight with Mayweather, has a fuzzy relationship at best with Judaism.

I don't know if Foreman is destined to be the best practicing Jewish boxer of recent memory, but he's certainly a serious and devoted Jew. What other fighter has more references from Rabbis than trainers or pundits on his Wikipedia entry? Foreman is probably pleased that his fight tonight is on a Thursday, as he avoids Saturday fights if possible and according to the NYT, observes the Sabbath by remaining within walking distance of the arena. Apparently once, when HBO people asked Foreman to make his way to the ring for a Saturday fight, he refused, telling his manager "let's pray for five minutes," while the evening sun wained.

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