Undefeated junior middleweight Yuri Foreman has always dared to dream big. A native of Belarus in the former Soviet Union, he left his adopted country of Israel in 1999, while still in his teens, to attain his dream of becoming a professional boxing champion.
Like scores of dreamers before him, he arrived in Brooklyn with little more than the clothes he was wearing. He made his way to the fabled Gleason’s Gym, where owner Bruce Silverglade saw something special in him and took him under his wing.
While fighting under Gleason’s banner in 2001, Foreman won a coveted New York City Golden Gloves title. Since turning pro in January 2002, he has compiled a sterling record of 24-0 (8 KOS). In his last fight, in December, he outpointed Andrey Tsurkan to win the NABF title.
He puts that title on the line on Thursday, April 3, at the Aviator Sports Arena in Brooklyn. His opponent is the hard-punching, battle-tested Saul Roman, 28-4 (24 KOS), of Mexico. The fight will be the main event of a show televised by the Versus network.
Top Rank is promoting, in association with Sal Musemeci’s Final Forum Promotions.
In the co-feature, Joshua Clottey, the number one rated welterweight in the IBF, will risk a guaranteed fight against the winner of the upcoming Antonio Margarito-Kermit Cintron title bout by taking on the always tough Jose Luis Cruz, 34-3-2 (27 KOS), of Mexico.
Foreman, a deeply religious Jew, believes that a victory over Roman will be a portend of good things to come.
“I am very excited to be fighting in Brooklyn because I live in Brooklyn and have never fought here,” said the 28-year-old Foreman. “I have a feeling that everything is going in the right direction for me. I did all of my duty in the gym, so I am prepared for whatever direction the fight takes.”
The 27-year-old Roman’s unpredictability could provide a sterner test than the Foreman camp is expecting. Although he was stopped in two of his last three fights, the bout that he did win was against former champion Kassim Ouma. Roman outpointed Ouma over 10 rounds in November.
“Roman is a tough guy,” said Foreman. “He’s Mexican, and Mexican fighters always come to fight. He has the same amount of knockouts as I have fights.”
Over the years, Foreman, who is promoted by Top Rank, has developed a reputation as a brilliant tactician who is reluctant to mix it up. As a result, many non-purists find his style boring.
Silverglade says that Foreman had much more power in the amateurs, and hopes that the work he has been doing with a strength conditioner will amp up his offensive arsenal with more power punching.
“If he would plant himself, he’d have more power and the knockouts would come,” said Silverglade. “If he’s going to take full advantage of the exposure on Versus, he has to show some power. Purists already love him because of what a great technician he is. If he started showing more power, his popularity would greatly increase.”
One person who has no problems with Foreman’s style is Versus announcer Nick Charles, who called his title-winning fight against Tsurkan.
“I don’t have problems with that type of style,” said Charles. “I just think that Foreman really needs to step-up. It’s time to see if he has the goods or not. The Tsurkan fight was controversial, but I thought Foreman won by a wide margin. In my opinion, he controlled him.”
While Charles thinks that Foreman’s second appearance on Versus will be a good showcase for him, he also believes that he has to win big against Roman.
“This is a good style matchup,” said Charles. “Before Roman beat Ouma, which was a big surprise, he seemed to be in decline. Who knows how much that win rejuvenated him? I think Foreman is a great prospect, but with 24 fights he should be further along. That’s not a criticism, just an observation.”
Foreman, on the other hand, is very happy with the way his career is progressing. After disposing of Roman, he hopes to win a world title while also pursuing some of his other interests.
While his wife, Leyla Leidecker, is a filmmaker, Foreman would like to get more work as an actor. He recently played an unbeatable underground Russian fighter in a yet to be released film starring Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard, who Foreman can’t say enough good things about.
“He’s an amazing guy,” said Foreman. “He stands out from many other actors. He’s a very nice person, professional and polite, and a great actor.”
The same types of accolades that Foreman heaps upon Howard are heaped upon him by Murray Wilson, his co-manager of five years. Wilson is the owner of two very popular New York eateries, Campagnola and Ecco.
The first thing that struck Wilson, a lifelong boxing fan who had no previous business connection with the sport, was the fact that Foreman was Jewish. He had learned of him by reading a favorable article in the New York Times.
“The second thing is the fact that he is such a sweet kid and a great fighter,” added Wilson. “He reminds me of Willie Pep.”
It is hard to dispute Foreman’s immense boxing skills, as well as his tremendous work ethic. Until he was subsidized by Wilson and his partner, Allan Cohen, Foreman was working full-time in the Garment District and training at night.
Today, his only distraction from boxing is the religious instruction that he takes very seriously.
“I get strength from my faith, as well as the long road I’ve taken in three different countries,” said Foreman. “All of the hardship in Russia, Israel and here in the United States gives me the burst I need. I have a feeling I am going in the right direction, but only think of one fight at a time. It is foolish to look beyond your next opponent.”
Foreman dismisses the notion that he not a big enough puncher to put a dent in the chins of the top dogs in his division.
“I might not have a lot of knockouts but I have fought good opponents, and they were all aware of my power,” he said. “I don’t punch light enough for my opponents to ignore it when it lands on their faces. I’ll just keep doing what I’m supposed to do, which is win. The knockouts will come; I’m not worried about that.”
Besides the Clottey-Cruz co-feature, the following matches are scheduled:
Oscar De La Cruz, 5-4-2 (2 KOS), of Atlanta will take on Argenis Mendez, 9-0 (6 KOS), of the Dominican Republic in a six round super featherweight bout.
Artie Bembury, 2-2 (0 KOS), of the Bronx, will battle Martin Wright, 5-0-1 (2 KOS), of Brooklyn in a six round lightweight bout.
Brian Mullis, 4-3-1 (2 KOS), of Mt. Holly, N.C., takes on the popular Mike Ruiz, 5-2 (4 KOS) of New York, in a four round super welterweight scrap.
Ken Dunham, 3-4 (2 KOS), of Charlotte, N.C., goes against debuting Chris Algieri of Huntington, Long Island in a four round welterweight bout.
Super lightweights Bernel Ayers and Anthony Lenk, both of whom hail from New York, will be making their pro debuts.
The Aviator Sports Arena is located at Floyd Bennett Field, on the southernmost end of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Doors open at 7:00 P.M. To purchase tickets, call 718-758-7500.