The Battle of the Boroughs is on. Renderings of the ring as it will fit in right centerfield, with its boxy bad-weather canopy, are printed. The Ballans have graciously ceded their son’s Bar Mitzvah slot. The undercard of nine fights is filled with a melting pot: “a fighter from every ethnicity,” proclaimed promoter Bob Arum, without elaborating, save to mention a Pole from New Jersey who will fight an Irishman. Come June 5, the first boxing match in Yankee Stadium since Muhammad Ali beat Ken Norton back in 1976 will pit Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto against the Brooklyn-based Belorussian and famously Orthodox future rabbi Yuri Foreman.
“If I win,” Foreman told reporters gathered for a packed press conference this morning just up the third base line, “I will have the chance to rename Yankee Stadium ‘Yankel Stadium.’”
Bad jokes aside, and despite being the a super welterweight world champion, Foreman—in plaid pants, a pink tie, and fedora, looking every bit the Brooklynite—played the giddy pup to Cotto’s demure bulldog. “We are the owners of our own destiny,” Cotto said. Foreman, meanwhile, called his discovery of Judaism “amazing.” Both are charged with helping to bring stellar performers from their home countries to sing their anthems; Foreman, who lived in Israel from 1991 to 1999, promised “the greatest singer in Israel” to sing the Hatikvah. Commenters, place your bets.
Promoters handed the fighters baseball bats and boxing gloves. “It’s not a golf club,” manager Alan Cohen reminded Foreman, who has obviously never played baseball before. Foreman was asked if, before now, he had ever imagined standing behind home plate. “When I flew in from Ben Gurion to JFK,” Foreman said, “the only thing I was looking for was a cab. I was 19 then. Now I’m 29. I’m certainly happy to be here.”
On fight Saturday, Foreman’s camp considered spending Shabbat in the stadium (“a Shabbas to remember,” Foreman said). But Yankee officials balked, and so instead, he’ll stay at a 96th Street hotel, with police escort standing by to race him to the stadium as soon as the sun hits the horizon. Boxing begins at 10:15 pm. Tickets go on sale next Friday. Is this something you want to miss?