Yuri Foreman definitely had a reach advantage.
But the former world champion boxer didn’t press it. Instead, he was happy to let the youngsters at the Wyckoff Community Center counter and connect on the combinations he was teaching them during an NBA FIT Week event on Thursday afternoon.
Foreman teamed up with Nets players Jahlil Okafor, Quincy Acy and Tyler Zeller and some of the Brooklynettes dancers to man workout stations at the event.
“It was amazing,” said Foreman. “They were a little distracted … there were three giants walking around. I was distracted myself. But it was fun.”
The 37-year-old last fought a year ago, but he’s been working on building a foundation for his post-boxing life longer than that. After several years of study, he was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in 2014. Born in Belarus, then in the Soviet Union, Foreman’s family moved to Israel when he was 10. He immigrated to Brooklyn in 1999.
“It was a gradual process,” said Foreman of his studies. “Something I was reconnecting with, my roots, my Jewish roots. And I wanted to go a few steps deeper. Being a rabbi would give me the pass to work in the future with kids and communities.”
Foreman came to Brooklyn to pursue his boxing career, and he found a home at Gleason’s Gym. The climb in the boxing world was gradual as well. His first two pro fights in 2002 were in a hotel and a restaurant, neither of which has held a fight card since that year. The spotlight was a distant reach.
He won a minor title with the NABF super welterweight belt in 2007. But it wasn’t until 2009, after he’d won his first 27 fights, that Foreman got a major championship shot. He cashed in with a unanimous decision victory over Daniel Santos that made him the WBA world super welterweight champion.
Foreman lost the belt to Miguel Cotto a year later, but he’s gone on to post a 34-3 career record. He fought at Barclays Center in 2015 and won by unanimous decision.
He’s continued to train at Gleason’s almost daily, several hours a day. And for several years he’s been heavily involved in the gym’s Give A Kid A Dream program. Foreman and other Gleason’s trainers regularly work with young kids on their boxing skills as part of the free program.
“I’m an ordained rabbi, former world champion boxer,” said Foreman. “I think I’m in the stage of my life that I’m asking what can I possibly do, bring some light to the world. Besides my family, my kids, something else. Everybody has some kind of a mission in life, and I feel comfortable, I feel satisfied when I work with young adults, kids in search of expanding their world view perhaps, in some positive way.”