Yuri Foreman lost his WBA Junior Middleweight Championship in Yankee Stadium’s first boxing match in 34 years on Saturday night – but not for lack of effort. With a resurfacing injury hampering his movement and a rejuvenated Miguel Cotto patiently breaking him down, Foreman’s body eventually gave out on him.
In keeping with the Sabbath, Foreman, a practicing Orthodox Jew who is also studying to become a rabbi, didn’t even leave his hotel for the biggest fight of his career until after sundown. Once in the ring and under the lights, he gave his best, but it wasn’t good enough to get him past a fighter the caliber of Cotto.
In light of his twelfth round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao back in November, many had written Cotto off as a being past his best and in no position to move up to his third weight class against a bigger titleholder – even one as unproven as Foreman. Instead, Cotto demoted trainer Joe Santiago to an assistant and hired the legendary Emanuel Steward with the intent of returning to his old form.
It proved to be the right move as Cotto looked exceptionally sharp, regularly tagging Foreman – a boxer in every sense of the word – with his jab, one of which had Foreman stumbling back along the ropes in the first round. Foreman’s 4-inch height advantage was no advantage at all as Cotto found him with a hard left hook.
Settling in a bit, Foreman got his jab going to begin the second round. But Cotto didn’t shy away from his own jab, moving Foreman back with a thudding one to the face. Yuri finally let his hands go and caught Cotto with a left hook on the end of a combination attempt. Miguel responded by stepping in with a straight right to the head of Foreman that wobbled him.
The largely pro-Cotto crowd sensed an opportunity, as did Miguel, who moved in to do further damage and ended up taking a left hook from Foreman. Cotto added another stiff jab to the face before the bell to capture the round.
Foreman caught Cotto walking in with a right hand that rattled the challenger’s head in round three. They traded left hooks, with no give from either man. Foreman tried another hook but ate one across the mouth from Cotto. Foreman kept his distance a moment and dropped his mouthpiece while moving along the ropes. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. retrieved it and, for some bizarre reason, informed Cotto’s corner that they would be the ones to clean it.
Despite numerous lulls in the action, Mercante waited well over a minute to have the mouthpiece replaced. Steward argued that it belonged to Yuri, and Mercante assured them he was aware but made the Cotto corner clean it anyway, not even considering the possibility of a corner tampering with the opponent’s mouthpiece.
Finding himself out boxed by his smaller opponent left Foreman with only one choice: to stand and fight. The decision seemed to catch Cotto by surprise in round four when, early on, he was hit by a big right hand across the mouth. Miguel’s head bobbled a moment, but he fired back with a right before they traded left hooks.
The fight had been billed as “Stadium Slugfest,” and it was becoming just that as Yuri stepped in and hit Cotto with another right. Another followed suit, and Foreman got out before Miguel could answer. But when he went for the trifecta, Cotto was ready and clocked him with a left hook on the top of the head. Foreman was already bleeding from the nose when Cotto lifted his head with an uppercut.
Working behind the jab, Cotto moved in and slammed Foreman’s head against the ropes with a right hand. When Yuri fired his right once again, Cotto got a glove up to block it, having already made the adjustment. Miguel came in and bashed Foreman with a pair of left hooks against the ropes, taking over a round he was losing early.
Foreman stepped in and scored with another right to start the fifth round. He tried to follow up with a left hook but got his head slammed back by one from Cotto instead. They traded hooks, and Cotto fired off an uppercut that snapped Yuri’s head back. Foreman battled back with a right but took a hard left hook from Cotto in return. Miguel added a straight right to Foreman’s face and finished the round with a left hook, sending Yuri back to his corner bleeding from both nostrils.
The sixth passed without drama, but things took a wild turn in round seven. Moving along the ropes, Foreman’s right knee suddenly buckled on him, and he collapsed on his backside on the canvas. He tried to get up but rolled over, favoring his right leg, which was protected by a brace he wore into the ring. Foreman managed to stand and limped away, and, although Mercante allotted him five minutes to recover, Yuri didn’t even take a full minute to go back to fighting, though he limped to get there.
Cotto wasted no time letting his hands go, drilling the wounded Foreman with a straight right. Yuri hobbled about but went down once more – this time face first and rolling onto his back. When he stood up, Foreman was bleeding from the mouth and nose as Mercante tried to take him to the ringside doctor, but he walked away. Mercante somehow felt the need to commend Foreman on wanting to continue.
With Foreman unable to move, Cotto blasted him with a left hook in the center of the ring. Trapping him on the ropes, Cotto slammed home a body shot and a right-left combination that snapped the champion’s head up. Foreman tried fighting back but got hit by two big left hooks and a monstrous uppercut that sent his mouthpiece flying. Cotto poured it on with a left-right combination to the face.
Somehow, Yuri landed a right hand but quickly ate a left hook in return. Foreman was cut over the left eye and began pawing at it, all the while trading with Miguel. Mercante then interjected himself into the fight yet again, shielding Foreman from Cotto’s corner and warning him not to move into it, where he could slip again. He was blatantly trying to avoid the fight ending on an injury, which was a favor to the fans but probably not kosher as far as officiating goes. In any event, Yuri stayed out of the corner and made it to the bell, at which time he hobbled back to his corner.
Between rounds, Foreman’s wife Leyla Leidecker seemed to be calling for the fight to be stopped. Mercante tried to get the doctor in to see Yuri as well. In spite of everything, Foreman’s corner outrageously sent him out for more punishment.
Cotto spent round eight softening Foreman up with the jab. After taking one, Yuri dipped, barely managing to keep himself up on his one good leg. They traded right hands, and finally, the towel came in from Foreman’s corner, ending the fight.
Or at least it should have. But as Cotto saluted the crowd with his glove and Foreman pouted over the ropes, Mercante was still busy officiating, determined to make himself the focus on this night one way or another.
Foreman’s trainer Joe Grier had made his way into the ring, but Mercante began shouting instructions, ordering him and everyone else who had entered the ring out of it. As the referee, he had the final say on whether or not to stop the fight and, for some unknown reason, wanted it to continue. He audibly told someone that the corner had not thrown in the towel, begging the question of just who had.
Mercante found Foreman and again commended him on the courage he was showing, saying he didn’t want to see Yuri lose on an injury. But the fact was that Foreman’s corner had decided that he was in no condition to continue, whether or not Mercante thought so. Still, Mercante’s word was law.
It took nearly two-and-a-half minutes, but the fight continued, picking back up in round eight. They traded left hooks, Cotto’s moving the one-legged Foreman back. A missed combination from Cotto had Foreman stumbling around the ring, but Mercante still wasn’t convinced it was over, and Yuri survived a round he probably should never have seen.
Between rounds, Michael Buffer got on the microphone to explain to the crowd that the towel had come from an outside source, suggesting someone in the crowd threw it all the way into the ring.
Not even half a minute into round nine, Cotto put an end to the circus that the fight was quickly becoming. He put Foreman out of his misery with a left hook to the body. With no legs to hold him up, Foreman sank to a knee beside the ropes, and suddenly that was enough for Mercante to call it off without bothering to count, thereby rendering the whole fight continuation episode pointless.
The bloodied and battered Foreman got to his feet and walked away, shaking his head and on the verge of tears, having mustered every ounce of strength to go on but having a body that just wouldn’t cooperate. Cotto wasted no time finding him and commending him on the effort, the way one was supposed to – after the fight was over. Yuri was sat down on his stool to avoid putting any more pressure on the knee. He could take solace knowing that the grit he showed under such dire circumstances would likely land him more big fights in the future.
While Mercante’s over-officiating served to make Foreman look more like a hero, it simultaneously stole the spotlight from what had been a tremendous performance for Cotto, who really needed it to revive his career. With the win, he became a three-division champion, having won titles from 140 to 154 pounds.
The options for Miguel at this point are just about endless. With names like Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez at junior middleweight and a loaded welterweight division waiting just seven pounds south, he could make an attractive fight with as many as six or seven different names in his next outing. While he appears outsized at junior middleweight, he does not appear to be outgunned.
And after a performance that went a long way in restoring him to his most successful form, critics will think twice before suggesting he is near the end.
Tags: Boxing, Miguel Cotto, Miguel Cotto vs Yuri Foreman, Yuri Foreman