Yuri Foreman interview
By Sam Gregory: On Saturday June 27th undefeated Yuri Foreman (27-0 with 8 KO’s) will fight Cornelius Bundrage (29-4 with 17 KO’s) for the Jr middleweight IBF title eliminator on the undercard of Top Rank’s Latin Fury 9 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. So far Yuri has defended the Jr middleweight NABF title three times and considers himself well on his way to the top of the Jr middleweight division.
Yuri Foreman started boxing at the age of 7. Born in Belarus, the first sport Yuri tried was competitive swimming. Yuri would spend the morning at the pool and the afternoon hitting the books. It was during this time that the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded less than 50 miles from his home. At that time children under the age of 7 were evacuated to a safer area. Yuri went to Estonia for 3 months.
Back in Belarus the older boys at the pool where Yuri swam would bully him and badger him with anti-Semitic remarks. Yuri’s mother decided it was time for Yuri to learn how to fight so at the age of 7 she took him to the boxing gym. The first week at the gym Yuri began hitting the heavy bag and immediately fell in love with boxing. Soon after starting at the boxing gym, Yuri ran into one of the bullies from the pool that instigated a fight with him. Young Yuri got into his boxing stance and beat up the bully. It was from that day on that Yuri earned the respect from the older kids in his town.
“Everyone sees Jews as wimpy lawyers or accountants or weak,” Yuri said. “We need to get back the tough image of Jews, not to go looking for fights but to be ready for them.” The tough guy image Yuri was referring to started with such great Jewish fighters as, Benny Leonard, Lew Tendler, Abe Attell, Barney Ross and Maxie Rosenbloom. Jewish fights have historically been some of the greatest fighters to ever lace up a pair of gloves.
Yuri’s family immigrated to Israel in 1991 where he was eager to continue his boxing career. Yuri remembers the first question he was asked by the trainer when he walked in the new boxing gym, “What do you want from boxing?” Yuri said, “To be world champion.”
Yuri trained hard in Israel where the Arab boxers were only too happy to punch a Jewish boy. Then one day at the age of 19 Yuri decided to change the course of his life. “I came home one day and told my father I want to leave Israel; I want to be somebody,” Yuri said. So in 2000 Yuri Foreman moved to New York City.
Along with taking on a full time job, Yuri began training at world famous Gleason’s gym in Brooklyn. In 2001 Yuri won the New York Golden Gloves in the 156 lb open class. Yuri compiled an amateur record of 76-5. Yuri went on to turn pro in January of 2002 winning his first fight by TKO.
The first time I saw Yuri fight was in June of 2002 at Michaels of Eighth Ave, Glen Burnie, Maryland. This was Yuri’s fifth pro fight and his third win by way of TKO. In the early days Yuri was just coming into his own but he says he’s learned a lot from his earlier fights and today considers himself to be what he calls a “thinking fighter.”
Yuri said he has much more experience these days and he’s learned two main styles of fighting. First is the American style Yuri learned from Joe Grier who will be one of the seconds in Yuri’s corner on the 27th. Grier also runs a gym in Patterson, New Jersey where Yuri trains when he’s not training at Gleason’s in Brooklyn.
The other second in Yuri’s corner is Pedro Saiz who taught Yuri what he calls the “Spanish style” of fighting.
Yuri is definitely not considered a knockout artist or a head hunter; he has 8 knockouts in 27 wins. Rather than that Yuri prefers to out think his opponents; Yuri once said in an interview, “To be a good fighter, I try to beat them in my head first.”
The fighters he’s always looked up to and considers his biggest influence? Kostya Tszyu of course, he’s also a fan of Oscar De La Hoya. Yuri’s days start like most of the other fighters he trains with at Gleason’s, a morning run, sparring, pad work, etc…Along with his trains Joe Grier and Pedro Saiz, Yuri studies DVD’s of his upcoming opponent.
When he’s not in the gym training for a fight, Yuri Foreman is studying to be a Rabbi at the Iyyun Institute in Brooklyn with Rabbi Dovber Pinson.
In 2003 Yuri married Leyla Leidecker, a Hungarian model and herself a featherweight amateur boxer. They met at Gleason’s gym.
Yuri and his wife make their home in Brooklyn where Yuri is well on his way to being among the best known Jewish fighters in the sport.
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