Yuri Foreman says he sees no contradiction in being a religious scholar and a world-class boxer.
The orthodox Jew and rabbinical student is also the undefeated World Boxing Association super-welterweight champion. Tomorrow, in the first boxing card at Yankee Stadium in 34 years, Foreman will defend his title against Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico.
After a workout in Lower Manhattan this week, the 29-year-old Foreman answered questions from reporters that veered from his fighting weight to Israel's May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships headed for Gaza.
"Judaism is not just being spiritual in La La Land," Foreman said at the Trinity Boxing Club. "It's also bringing spirituality to physical day-to-day things, in any activity in your life, to have an intention of elevating it."
Foreman was born in Gomel, Belarus and emigrated to Haifa, Israel, with his family when he was 11. He moved to Brooklyn 10 years ago to focus on boxing and began his religious studies about three years ago.
In November he beat Daniel Santos in Las Vegas to win his title, becoming the first Israeli boxing champion. Foreman is 28-0 with a no-decision and eight knockouts as a professional.
In tomorrow's fight, billed as the 'Stadium Slugfest,' he'll take on the 29-year-old Cotto, who is 34-2 with 27 knockouts. Cotto has headlined at Madison Square Garden six times since 2005, drawing more than 93,000 people to become the most-watched fighter over that period in New York. His last fight was in Las Vegas in November, a 12th-round technical knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title.
The configuration at Yankee Stadium, with the boxing ring placed in the right-centre field and surrounded by about 6,000 on-field seats, will allow as many as 30,000 fans to attend the fight.
Foreman, who reads from the Torah daily, said he never imagined headlining at Yankee Stadium, though it's what he prepared for since he was a child.
"It's something I was getting ready for all my life, to make this walk to the ring," he said. "My goal is to win the fight. With that, I have a lot of tools to bring awareness to Jewish kids around the world, and non-Jewish kids, to pursue the dreams that you have."
Cotto will earn $2million for the fight and Foreman a career-high $750,000.
It's the first boxing card at the Major League Baseball stadium that opened last season.
The old Yankee Stadium hosted 46 boxing events over 53 years, featuring Hall of Fame fighters such as Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton, Jack Dempsey, Max Schmeling, Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano.
Foreman and Cotto said they are happy about boxing's return to the Bronx.
The champion said he's living a dream and the challenger said he'll be feeling like a title holder. "I'm going to feel like a Yankee," Cotto said.