Can newcomer Foreman take career to next level against Cotto?
When it comes to building marketable boxing champions, a good story line is an essential part of the formula. As the first Israeli to win a world title and a rabbinical student to boot, WBA super-welterweight champion Yuri Foreman has that part of the equation covered.
The question is whether this relative newcomer to the spotlight has the skills necessary to take his career to a higher level. The unbeaten Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs) has a big launch pad in the first-ever fight at new Yankee Stadium Saturday night in a bout televised by HBO, but he faces a formidable challenge from Miguel Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs), who is moving up to 154 to try and win a world title in a third weight class.
Foreman's title win over Daniel Santos in November was an eye-opener because he showed his punching power is underestimated by scoring two knockdowns. Still, he's the boxer in this fight, and Cotto, whose two losses came against Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito in his past four fights, is viewed as the puncher.
Joe Grier, who trains Foreman, hasn't tried to turn him into something he's not. His real strength is conditioning and his mental approach.
"This kid is on a dream mission, and every dream has come true because he didn't allow anybody else to give him anything," Grier said. "Come Saturday night, he's got to believe in himself more than anybody else. He has to convince himself this is where he needs to be to achieve greatness. He's headed for greatness."
Trainer Emanuel Steward, who is working with Cotto for the first time in an attempt to revive his career, has immense respect for Foreman's difficult style. "He's big, and he's all over the ring, punching and moving from all angles," Steward said. "Anybody would have a tough fight with him. I don't buy the knock that he can't punch. He punches fine. He's a much better fighter than people give him credit for."
The 5-11 Foreman has a three-inch height advantage and a four-inch edge in reach over Cotto. But Steward said he doesn't fight that tall because he comes in with his head down, which might lead to head butts and cuts.
Cotto has a devastating left hook, but Steward has been working with him to use his jab, keep it in Foreman's eyes and then throw a right cross behind it. The idea is to bring Foreman's hands up to block it and then fire the left hook to the ribs. Uppercuts are also part of the package. "We're looking at [Foreman] coming in and catching him with the uppercut," Steward said. "When he moves around, he drops down when he punches, so we're throwing a lot of shots up between the gloves. And we're throwing a few straight right hands because everybody is looking for his left hook."
For Cotto, the question is whether he is comfortable with the changes Steward has made. "We work on everything Yuri can bring," Cotto said. "I trust pretty much my strength. I'm going to win Saturday night."
Prediction: Foreman is fast, smart and won't wear down. But Cotto has a vast edge in championship experience, and the addition of Steward will help him win a 12-round decision.