In life, one must set priorities. Boxing is a priority for Yuri Foreman—it must be, of course, it’s his profession—but if you speak to him for any significant length of time you’ll know that his family and faith come before his fists.
So on Friday evening, when Foreman (34-2-0) stepped into the ring at Resorts World Casino in Queens for his bout against Jason Davis (13-12-2), he knew he had to fell his opponent quickly so that he could stop working before sundown and go home, where he’d light candles, pour a celebratory glass of wine, and observe the Sabbath with his wife and two children.
“In the summer its easier because Shabbat enters late,” said Foreman, who was slated to fight second on the Lou DiBella-promoted card. “Luckily the fight was quick.”
Quick it was, as Foreman, 35, knocked Davis down three times in the second round before the ref called the fight. It was Foreman’s 34th victory, this time coming by way of TKO.
“My coach, Pedro Saiz, told me to [apply] pressure right from the get-go,” said Foreman. “I’m happy I didn’t hurt him. [Boxing’s] not about that.”
Then, Foreman picked up his gym bag and was driven to his Park Slope home by a friend. Typically, said Foreman, his head is still buzzing after a fight, making it difficult to settle down when he gets home. This time, he said he slid right in. “I took a shower, did Shabbat, and just chilled out and had a few glasses of wine.”
Before the fight, Foreman had read that Muhammad Ali had been hospitalized. The next morning, when he learned of Ali’s death, Foreman cried as he re-read some of Ali’s quotes.
“Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned about Ali first; Superman was the second,” he said. “It was not an action hero that came from the West, it was Muhammad Ali. His most important impact is not just boxing. He was a truth seeker, [whose words] speak louder today more than any other politician.”
His Friday night fight against Davis was Foreman’s first bout in seven months, in part because he had been battling the flu. In December, Foreman returned to the ring in victorious fashion after a two-year hiatus.
In April, while training for his most recent fight at the storied Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, Foreman welcomed a special sparring partner: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Foreman was selected to train Trudeau, a boxing fan who stopped by to get in a workout at the gym where a number of champions have trained, including Muhammad Ali and Foreman himself, a former WBA super welterweight champ.
“It was fun to tell someone in a high political office to keep his hands up or he’s going to get smacked,” said Foreman. Trudeau, said Foreman, responded by stating, “If I don’t get hit in the gym then I feel like I’m not going to learn anything.”
“No, no,” Foreman told Trudeau, who had taken office not six months prior. “Boxing is about the art of self defense, keep your hands up.
“It was good to meet him,” said Foreman. [He’s] very humble.”
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Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.