Four days before his first North American Boxing Federation title defense, Yuri Foreman sat in the basement of a Brooklyn brownstone studying Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law. By early afternoon, he would be at Gleason’s Gym to train for his approaching bout with Saul Román, a power puncher from Mexico with 24 knockouts in 28 fights.
…Foreman’s endeavor has led to debate among some Jewish leaders.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said Jewish principles would seem to put Foreman’s professional career at odds with his religious education. It is forbidden, the rabbi said, to injure yourself or another person. Rabbinic law also asks individuals to avoid situations of potential danger.
“He has to recognize there are certain issues he has to confront,” Potasnik said. “Doing what he’s doing is problematic, but all of life is problematic. That’s something he has to resolve, and I respect him for his commitment.”
But Rabbi Benjamin Blech, an assistant professor of the Talmud at Yeshiva University, said Foreman could help fight the belief that Jews were weak or could be bullied. When asked how he would react to the notion of a world champion boxing rabbi, Blech said, “I would be proud.”
He added: “Everything has a risk-and-reward factor. Does that mean he can’t go bungee jumping, get in a car or a plane?”
Foreman said his goal was not to injure himself or his opponent, but to win by outscoring competitors. And Arum, who described himself as an observant Jew, said rabbis have told him that Foreman’s studies and boxing were not in conflict.
Rabbi Pinson said that if Foreman had approached him as a young man, he would not have suggested a boxing career. Because Foreman was already accomplished in the sport, however, he said he would not dissuade him.
Foreman attempts to restrict his fights to weekdays.
If a bout lands on a Saturday, as was the case in June, he observes the Sabbath by remaining within walking distance of the arena. Wilson, his manager, said the sun had yet to set when HBO officials called for Foreman to make his way to the ring. He refused to do so.
“He pulled me into the corner,” Wilson recalled, “and said, ‘Please, let’s pray for five minutes.’ ”
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