On June 5, 2010, Yuri Foreman fought Miguel Cotto in Yankee Stadium.
On June 19, 2021, Foreman will engage in the second fight of his comeback at the Buckhead Fight Club, located in a strip mall in Atlanta.
“For me, it's humbling,” the former junior middleweight world champion said. “I don't look at it like, 'Oh, look, I've been there and now l went all the way here,' but it's a humbling experience to go through what I was going through as a contender when I had my pro debut, second, third, fourth, fifth fights. The crowds are the same size. But it also gives me motivation to work harder. It's a nice kick in your ass and I visualize bigger things happening.”
It's proof positive that while it’s said that the punch is the last thing to go on a fighter, in reality, it’s the heart that goes last, and heart is something Foreman always had plenty of. Proof positive was that fight with a prime Cotto in which Foreman basically fought on one leg due to a knee injury before the fight was finally stopped in the ninth round.
Foreman lost his WBA belt that night, but his first pro loss wasn’t seen as one that would cripple his career. His comeback fight nine months later was rougher to deal with as he was stopped in six one-sided rounds by Pawel Wolak, and he wouldn’t return for nearly two years. When he did step back through the ropes, he stayed busy, but was beating opponents not close to a world-class level.
“I felt that after the Cotto fight, everything was on the decline in terms of my base team, my home team, and my training was more of autopilot,” said Foreman. “When you wake up in the morning, you just do things - you brush your teeth, you put on your regular clothes, you watch TV or Instagram quick, whatever it is, and then you get in the car and get to the gym because you're on autopilot. You do it without even thinking. Am I really liking it? Should I really be doing it?”
All the while, he was dealing with distractions at home as his marriage began to fall apart.
“I was going through a lot in my personal life at that time,” Foreman continues. “I had the birth of three kids since the Cotto fight, and we all go through situations where you need to be more of a provider than a boxer. That lasted for quite a few years. And one thing for a boxer or a professional in any kind of sport, is that if your profession is not the main thing, you shouldn't be doing it. And I had been doing it just because I felt ‘I'm still a boxer.’”
He was, and six consecutive wins following the Wolak fight put Foreman in another world title fight in 2017, this one against Erislandy Lara. But his quest to regain his crown fell short when he was stopped in four rounds. As he arrived back home in Brooklyn, his personal life had hit rock bottom.
“When I got my fight with Lara in 2017, all I heard from my wife at that time was 'You got knocked out with such a silly, silly punch; shame on you,'” Foreman recalled. “All of us athletes, we're perceived as conquering Mount Everest, but those words have a big impact on you. Saying those things, it's like a knife in your back. They hurt.”
Soon, the couple’s divorce was finalized, and Foreman could move on. Thankfully, he had already met someone who was going to change his life for the better, even if that better didn’t include any more boxing at the time.
“After I met Shoshana, I started having a lot of support that I never even experienced before,” Foreman said of the lady who would eventually become his wife. “After that, I felt my second life, my best life, started because with this marriage with Shoshana, I receive tremendous support. When you're mentally in the gutter, so to speak, the more you stay in that situation, the more you absorb that situation, and the more it's going to happen to you. People who are looking for trouble, for example, they always find trouble. Always. And that's the same thing with being positive or negative, or always constantly worrying. If a person thinks about shortage - I can't afford this, I can't afford this - he will never afford anything then.
“With Shoshana, I started losing those bad habits that were always so ingrained that it became part of my habit,” he continues. “I started a clearing of my house. And it's interesting because when you start working on yourself, when you're cleaning your personal domain, all other things that have been attached to you, whether it's negative people or some crowds around you, you start realizing it and you're cutting them out. They're energy vampires.”
Foreman, who stayed in shape and in the gym, even though he wasn’t fighting, got his life back. And with his life with his three sons and his new bride settled, he began thinking that maybe he had something left in the basement, as Rocky Balboa would say. Shoshana agreed, and last December, the 40-year-old Foreman was in Louisville, Kentucky, winning an eight-round split decision over Jeremy Ramos. It wasn’t fighting Cotto, Lara, or any of the other top-level foes he had shared the ring with, but it was a fight, and that’s all he wanted.
“I experienced being one month short of a four-year break from the ring on December 5th,” he said. “So I felt quite a bit of rust (against Ramos). But the fight was fun. It was fun to move, and I moved a lot in my fight just like I did probably 20 years ago. It felt good. I want more.”
He’ll get more in a few weeks when he faces the 17-5-2 Williams (https://www.buckheadfightclub.com/event-details/yuri-foreman-underground-showdown-2), and Foreman makes it clear that he’s not doing this as a lark to get a couple fights in and call it a day. When he says this is his second career, he means it. As for the dangers of a 40-year-old getting in there with the hungry, young guns, Foreman knows the risks and he believes he’s addressed them – not only now, but throughout his pro career.
“Boxing fans want to see blood, guts and war, but I've always been a boxer,” he explains. “And that's also in sparring. When I spar, I don't want to get hit; I want to have a longer career, not a short career, and I don't want to leave my career in the gym. The older I get, I start thinking more that health is something that you cannot buy. It doesn't matter how big the purse is. You cannot buy health. It's maintenance that you always have to do upon yourself. I always train, I always push myself, and I do have cheat days in terms of nutrition maybe once a week on the Sabbath. But most of the time I'm watching what I eat, and I'm treating my body like a temple, or synagogue.”
So criticize if you must, but Foreman doesn’t take it personally.
“I understand from their perspective,” he said of reading the comments section. “A person who feels a little bit slower or older at age 40, people very often project, and I take that in a healthy way. I'm not getting upset. But first of all, they don't know me, they don't know my lifestyle, and a lot of projection is human nature.”
What isn’t human nature in most cases is taking a stab at a goal many feel is impossible and not just making the attempt, but believing it will happen. Yuri Foreman earned the right to take that shot.
“A friend of mine was complaining, ‘I want this, I want that.’ And I was telling him that when I was a kid back in Russia, my dad was telling me, 'Yuri, it's a very healthy sign that you want things; it's a very unhealthy sign when you don't want anything. So continue wanting.' So, for me, I don't look at this as a couple fights, let me just try it out and goodbye. This is my best shot. I'm going to give a hundred percent - my physical, my spiritual, my mental - into climbing this Mount Everest again. And we'll see how it goes.”