NEW YORK — Jewish boxing champion Yuri Foreman hopes to defend his title at Yankee Stadium in June — unless a bar mitzvah gets in the way.
The 154-pound champion would fight former welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto on June 5 at the ballpark in the Bronx, promoter Bob Arum told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Arum has been hoping to bring a fight to Yankee Stadium for years.
“The Yankees want to make a deal, we know we can make a deal, they’re just working through a problem at Yankee Stadium,” Arum said. “But you wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”
He’s not kidding.
“They’ve leased out some lounges for this bar mitzvah and part of the deal was for a half hour or so, they could use the big screen in centre field to show pictures and all that sort of stuff,” Arum said, laughing.
“Obviously you can’t do that if there’s fights going on.”
Ramping up the irony, Foreman is studying to become a rabbi.
Arum said he’s hopeful that something can be worked out, perhaps by giving the families holding the bar mitzvah credentials for the fight. If the conflict can’t be resolved, Foreman would defend his WBA junior middleweight belt on June 12 at Madison Square Garden — the eve of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York City.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef has said that he has the arena, where Cotto has fought some of his most thrilling bouts, on hold for that date.
Either way, the fight on a midsummer Saturday night creates another logistical problem. The Jewish sabbath does not officially end until sundown.
“Because of the sabbath ending late, we would announce that the main event would not start until after 11:30 p.m.,” said Arum, himself a devout Jew. “There’s a lot of great things we would have to do around it.”
Foreman, a New York-based native of Belarus, would be making the first defence of the title he won from Daniel Santos on the undercard of Cotto’s loss to Manny Pacquiao last fall.
While he doesn’t have tremendous name recognition, Foreman (28-0) does have substantial backing from the large Jewish population that makes up the New York metropolitan area.
“The magnitude of this event cannot be overstated,” said Foreman’s confidant, Dovid Efune.
“It may be the biggest Jewish sporting event of all time, certainly since David fought Goliath.”
While the logistics of holding a fight in Yankee Stadium are unclear, Arum hasn’t shied away from staging fights in massive venues.
He promoted the final bout at the old Yankee Stadium across the street when Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton on Sept. 28, 1976, a fight remembered more for the chaos caused by a police strike than anything else.
On March 13, Arum is taking Pacquiao’s title defence against Joshua Clottey to the US$1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium just outside Dallas. The facility will be configured for about 40,000 fans, although Top Rank is hopeful that up to 70,000 show up the night of the fight.
Arum has approached the Yankees several times over the past 30 years about staging another event at the stadium, but George Steinbrenner and club brass had always been tepid about erecting a ring and seating on the immaculate infield grass.
Scheduling also created problems because a fight would have to be staged when the team is on the road.
All of those concerns seem to be washing away as the new leadership of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner work to maximize revenue from the luxurious ballpark.
Last September, a makeshift dais was set up along the first base line for a news conference to announce the Pacquiao-Cotto fight, which was ultimately held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost joked at the time that Arum should bring a fight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to the stadium.
The cast of characters may be different, but Trost could be getting his wish for a fight.
“I’m very excited to defend my title in New York, which is the Jewish capital of the Diaspora,” Foreman said in a statement.
“Having the fight in Yankee Stadium would be the icing on the cake, so please God it is finalized.”