If Yuri Foreman wins the first boxing match at Yankee Stadium since 1976 on Saturday night, he may become something of a celebrity as a Jewish champion.
Foreman is currently the WBA Super Welterweight champ. But boxing has plummeted in popularity over the last 20 years and few sports fans care who the super welterweight champ is.
There were a lot of top Jewish fighters during the first half of the 20th century, like Benny Leonard and Barney Ross, but far, far fewer in recent decades.
Foreman was born in Belarus during the Soviet days. His family moved to Israel when he was 9 and he started training in an Arab gym.
Along the way, Foreman started practicing Orthodox Judaism. He won’t fight during the Sabbath.
But Saturday night’s fight will be long after dark. HBO’s coverage won’t start until 10 p.m.
The last fight at Yankee Stadium (the old Stadium, of course) was the third Muhammad Ali-Ken Norton showdown in 1976. Ali won the fight, but many observers — myself included — thought that Norton won their rubber-match.
I am among the last boxing fans, but I’ve only seen Foreman fight once. His reputation: good defensive boxer, no punching power.
His opponent, Cotto, has been a top fighter in recent years. But in his last fight in November, he got TKOed by the great Manny Pacquiao.
Cotto is of Puerto Rican descent and will likely have a lot of fans at the Stadium. As will Foreman.
So, as the man says, Let’s get ready to rumble. (Am I a frustrated sports writer? Maybe.)