SAN FRANCISCO – Yuri Foreman late Saturday night
became the first Israeli to claim a professional boxing crown when he
defeated Daniel Santos of Puerto Rico to take the WBA junior
middleweight (under-70 kilogram) title on points.
Foreman, a Belarus-born Israeli who has lived in
Brooklyn for 10 years and is studying to be an Orthodox rabbi, won the
12-round bout by unanimous decision – 116-110, 117-109 and 117-10. The 29-year-old Foreman was so excited after his
victory that a few minutes after midnight he called his father in Haifa
from his MGM hotel suite in Las Vegas to give him the big news.
"Before I entered the ring my wife, Leyla, told me: ‘Yuri, can I
ask you something? Do me a favor, finish it quickly with a knockout,’"
he told his father. "I knew why she asked me this, I knew it’s hard for
her to see me in a fight long enough to take several blows. I also
thought I wanted to end it with a knockout."
Foreman told his father how he prayed and said Pslams until he had
his rival on the ropes, losing his balance. "I saw him wobbling," he
said. "I knew another blow or two and I would send him to the floor and
win with a knockout, but then the bell sounded, ending the round and
Foreman is a rare combination of power and smarts. He comes from a
poor family that immigrated to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet
Union. His father works in Haifa as a mechanic, but Yuri moved to New
York nearly a decade ago. A few years later, he began studying in a
Brooklyn yeshiva to become an ordained Orthodox rabbi.