Trainee Rabbi Yuri Foreman became the first ever Israel world champion when he lifted the WBA light-middleweight title in Las Vegas.
The 29-year-old Brooklyn-based Foreman, entered the ring as the underdog but boxed superbly to take a unanimous points decision over defending title-holder Daniel Santos.
“I’m very proud to do this for Israel and to show that Jews can fight,” said Foreman, the first Jewish world champion since Mike Rossman lifted the WBA light-heavyweight title in 1978.
Foreman floored Santos, a 34-year-old Puerto Rican, in the second and 12th rounds and dominated the fight to take the decision by scores of 116-110 and 117-109 twice on the cards of the three judges.
Despite suffering a cut above his right eye, from an accidental clash of heads in the third round, Foreman’s superior speed enable him to dominate the exchanges.
“By the 11th or 12th round, my corner was telling me that I was ahead and I still didn’t really want to believe them,” said Foreman, whose clash with Santos was chief support to the mega-fight in between Manny Pacquaio and Miguel Cotto for the WBO world welterweight title at the MGM Grand Arena.
The new champion, who was born in Belarus, emigrated to Israel aged 11 before moving to the USA as a 19-year-old. “There’s a lot of tough Jews,” he said. “It’s actually a country of tough people. I needed to prove to everyone, not just myself, to the whole world that Jews know how to fight, that Jews know how to give a good fight and not surrender.
“People should not be surprised to see an Israeli to be a world champion. I worked hard for months to be at the peak of fitness. They were very exhausting, difficult months to both study for the rabbinate and practice, but now the hard work paid off and proved.
“It’s a fact we had 12 tough rounds, but thank God every time I got back into the ring for more I said prayers in my heart, and it worked.”
Now unbeaten in 28 fights, he will take his time considering the options for his first defence but will also continue his studies to become a rabbi.
“Everybody’s probably going to call me out now, but one thing is that I’m happy today.
“I’m a world champion and I’ve proven that you can do things that look very contradicting to one another. I think it’s a good message,” he added after taking home $41,250, a 40 per cent cut of the purse.
Foreman’s fellow Brooklyn resident and friend Dmitriy Salita aims to follow him to world title glory when he challenges Amir Khan for the WBA light-welterweight title on December 5.