ESPN’s award-winning primetime newsmagazine E:60 will tell the unusual story of world champion Yuri Foreman in the episode airing Tuesday at 7PM ET. It’s an old story, kind of. A penniless immigrant finds his way to America, wins fame and fortune in the boxing ring and marries a model. But as E:60’s Jeremy Schaap reports, this is a story with a twist. Foreman isn’t the typical immigrant boxer. He’s a Belarusian Jew and is studying to be an orthodox rabbi. After Foreman won the WBA super welterweight title last November, dethroning the heavily favored defending champion Daniel Santos, he said his faith, as much as his fists, was the determining factor.
“I believe that, looking back, I needed to find Judaism in order to become a world champion,” Foreman said.
Foreman was born in Gomel, Belarus, then in the Soviet Union, and began cultivating his boxing skills at age 7. His family immigrated to Israel when he was 10. Growing up in a poor neighborhood in Haifa, Foreman believed boxing was his only way out of poverty. In 1999, he moved to Brooklyn to pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer. There, he met a local rabbi who pushed him to make a deeper connection with his religion. Three years ago, Foreman began classes to become a rabbi.
Undefeated in 28 fights, Foreman says his Jewish studies make him more focused in the ring. He defends his title against Miguel Cotto on June 5 at Yankee Stadium.