photo by Chris Farina
He had the look of someone who might just have had enough. Yuri Foreman, as he sat on his stool in his corner after the sixth round, after six rounds of not feeling like himself, of taking punishment from a New Jersey wrecking ball named Pawel Wolak, looked like an athlete who wasn't quit sure if he wanted to stay being an athlete.
On the advice of his corner, in this case trainer Pedro Saiz, who has worked with Foreman for more than four years, Foreman figuratively threw in the towel before the start of the seventh round of his junior middleweight bout on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga undercard at the MGM in Las Vegas.
Right after, Foreman told viewers that he didn't feel like himself, felt “mushy,” and that he'd take some time off to assess his options.
I called the 30-year-old Foreman on Thursday, and checked in with him. I was wondering if the guy who had been fighting for 18 years might have done more assessing, and decided that it was over.
“After a break, to re-charge my batteries, I will be hungry again,” he told me. “I love sports, I love boxing a lot. But I have been doing it for 18 years. As I get ready for fights, my preparation is good, I train so hard. But this one, I was doing on habit. I was not as driven.”
Foreman's had a full plate the last year and a half. He won a title, defended it against Miguel Cotto, tore his knee in a loss to the Puerto Rican, had a baby boy, suffered the loss of a beloved co-manager, Murray Wilson, a father figure to him, had surgery on the knee, rehab. He admitted that it was all a bit much.
He'd like to strengthen that knee more, so he could restore some mobility not in evidence enough against Wolak. He will focus on his rabbinical studies as he continues to get his mental energy back to where it needs to be a world class fighter. And he will, he said, he will not let anyone busting his chops for being “Yuri Boreman” or for staying on his stool rather than eating more Wolak leather get to him.
He said Saiz, seeing that he'd lost every round, told him before the sixth round that if he continued to eat clean shots, he'd stop the fight. “If you're not doing more, I'll stop it,” Saiz told him.
“He'd never seen me getting hit like that,” the boxer told TSS. “In one fight I got hit more than in all my other fights combined. I was out of my element. I respected his decision. I thought he was right.”
We all know the critic's long knives can get slicing and dicing when a fighter waves the white flag. But I applaud Saiz for his humanity, and really, knowing what we know now about the effects of trauma on the brain to boxers, football players, hockey players, is it fair for any of us to judge harshly from the safety of the sidelines? “If I continued, it was going to be more of the same,” Foreman told me. “I don't know what I could say to people who said I quit. Some call me “Yuri Boreman.” Well, I got into sports not to silence critics. That's not my job. People who don't like you, there's very little you can do. And sacrificing your health in the ring, to show you have big balls, it's foolish.”
Foreman was a good sport, allowing me to probe his mind a bit. I admitted to him that I thought it..interesting that he chose 80-something Al Certo to train him for this bout. Certo and he bonded well in training, but Certo was sick and couldn't be in Vegas. I offered my theory, with hesitance, that maybe Foreman was subconsciously picking a grandfatherly type to sort of replace the presence of the sage Wilson. “I like your picture,” he answered. “But that was not the case here.” A mutual friend suggested they work together, Foreman told me. He admitted that he worried that maybe Certo wouldn't have the energy for the task, but he found that not to be the case. He said he will continue on with Certo.
“I wasn't ready for this fight, in the end,” he said, in closing. “I need a mental rest, and I think I'll feel much better.”