A week before his next fight, boxer Yuri Foreman visited the Rebbe’s Ohel in Queens for a blessing, as is his tradition before each match. Next Saturday night, he will be in the ring, defending his national title at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
This combination of two very different worlds is familiar to Foreman, a 28-year-old rabbinical student and an undefeated (26-0) professional light middleweight boxer, who wears the Star of David on his boxing trunks and a black yarmulka on his head.
Born in Belarus and raised in Israel, Foreman emigrated to the United States as a teen. After meeting Rabbi DovBer Pinson and attending Shabbat dinners at the Pinson’s home, he and his wife Leyla, previously an amateur boxer herself, began to keep Shabbat and other Jewish laws, and Yuri started wearing tefillin and tzitzis. He refuses to fight on Shabbat.
Foreman now studies Talmud and Yoreh De’ah in the morning, trains for boxing in the afternoon and attends rabbinical classes twice a week with the rabbi at the IYYUN Chabad Institute in Brooklyn.
“Yuri is a very good student,” said Rabbi Pinson, “Most people (in the class) who find out that he’s a boxer are very surprised. He doesn’t have that boxing personality, at least in the perception of what a boxer is. He’s not the rough kid on the block. He’s a sweet, easy-going kid.
When Pinson sent out an email to his students, offering them the opportunity to study in a Semicha program, Foreman jumped at the opportunity.
“Boxing and Judaism go side by side, because they both have a lot of challenges,” he said. “I would love to be a world champion now and a rabbi in the future.”
Yuri’s dream of a world championship is now a reality. He is currently the North American champion and is ranked #4 in the world in his division. On Dec 13, in Atlantic City, Yuri will defend his National title in a match against “Irish” James Moore.
Foreman says he hopes to one day give back to the community, and he says he would love to return to Israel to share what he learned.
“God gave me opportunities,” Foreman said. “I feel like I have to do something in return.”
For ticket information on Yuri’s upcoming match go to TicketMaster.com