Reppin Rebbe

by Adam Popescu

Yuri Foreman

In black trunks with a yellow Star of David. From Belarus, by way of Israel…fighting out of Brooklyn, New York, Yuri, Lion of Zion, Foreeeeeemmmmmmmaaaaaaannnn.

Yuri the fury is the first Jewish fighter with a major title since Kid Berg back in 1932. Not only that, he’s studying to be a Rabbi. A man of God, and a man of war. In one job he comforts and helps people. In another he hurts them.

He studies hard and he trains hard. Backed by a wife The New York Daily News calls a “pugilist,” buzz has been building in preparation of his WBA super welterweight title defense.

Last night, Yuri fought at Madison Square Garden, defending his WBA super welter-weight title against Miguel Cotto.Facing a sea of Puerto Rican fans waving their flags, the repping Rebbe came out to loud blasts from a shofar (a musical instrument crafted out of a ram’s horn) and the Hasidic Lubavitcher song Tzama Lecha Nafshi, which translates to My Soul Thirsts for You.

What would the Rebbe think?

The Rebbe

In a different era, Jewish fighters were fairly common. Growing up, my Aba told me about his boxing days in early World War II, going toe-to-toe with a German named Radamacher. He beat the German and was thrown in jail.

“Boxing commentator Bert Sugar recalls that Jewish fighters used to be so famous that Italian boxers changed their names to sound more Jewish.”>

As a star studded audience (including Manny Pacquiao, who defeated Cotto) looked on, Foreman and Cotto went back and forth, a nod going to Cotto for power. Things changed big in the 7th, as a Cotto blow sent Foreman to the ground, twisting his knee in the process.

In the 8th, Foreman’s camp threw in the towel, but strangely enough Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. thought Foreman was good enough to continue, and disregarded the call. Towelgate 2010.

After a dubious 8th round intermission, the men came out for the 9th. Forty plus seconds later, a left hook from Cotto to Foreman’s body knocked him down again and Mercante called the fight, 9th round TKO to Cotto.

Foreman is now at 28-1. This was his first defeat as a professional. ESPN’s Michael Woods says “Foreman’s cred doesn’t dip that much. He showed grit, fighting on a bum knee.”

Here’s to the Lion of Zion, Yuri Foreman rehabbing strong and coming back that much better. L’Chaim.

—Adam Popescu