A rabbi, a Ukranian immigrant and an undefeated New York boxer enter a boxing ring in Las Vegas to fight for the light middleweight title on Saturday night. That's not the start of a joke. All three are actually a guy named Yuri Foreman, who is studying to be a rabbi when he isn't training as a boxer.
The New York Times has a big profile of Foreman in Wednesday's paper and it's well worth a read. Foreman was born in Belarus, moved to Israel after the Iron Curtain fell and emigrated to New York when his boxing career began to go somewhere. Along the way he suffered a nasty breakup from a svengali-ish manager and married a woman who led him to start studying the Torah with a Brooklyn rabbi. It's not your everyday boxing backstory, but a pretty American one.
There's only one caveat. Foreman isn't only training to be a rabbi, he fights like one. Rabbis try to stay above the fray so they can analyze situations with a clear head and open heart, and Foreman acts the same way in the ring. He tries to stay out of the fray, picking his spots with the care that one might use when discussing existential questions of life and rarely throwing himself into fights with abandon. His punches lack the impact of a deeply felt sermon, however, which, along with his generally intellectual approach to pugilism, is why many think his career will stall now that he's reached the highest rungs of the boxing world.
It's not the most exciting brand of boxing to watch, but has proven successful enough for him to be undefeated entering Saturday's fight with WBA light middleweight champion Daniel Santos. It's been less fruitful financially, he'll make just over $41,000 even though the fight is part of the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto pay-per-view battle, but Foreman seems content with the knowledge that his life won't be defined solely by his in-ring accomplishments.
"I want to be able to do more than eat and go to the bathroom," Foreman said. "I want to be able to have, you know, a conversation."
Again, not your typical boxer backstory but that's what makes it interesting.