“This kid has got guts! Guts and more heart than Hallmark on Valentine’s Day.”
This was all me and my friends could say after watching the boxing match between Super Welterweight Champion Yuri Foreman and challenger Miguel Cotto last night.
Cotto defeated Foreman in the ninth round to capture the title, but both fighters won over the 20, 272 fans who jam-packed the new Yankee Stadium to see the match. The last time boxing was contested at Yankee Stadium was in September of 1976, when Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton fought across the street in the old house.
In the ninth Cotto beat Foreman up with a combination of jabs and hooks. The Puerto Rican challenger finally landed a nasty body shot to Foreman’s ribs, ending the match. Cotto was declared the winner and new Super Welterweight Champion.
With the victory, Cotto has now won four World Boxing Association titles in his career.
Foreman, coming into the match with an undefeated record of 28-0, slipped twice in the seventh round. Wearing a brace on his right knee, it turns out the Israeli-born Champion was injured at the age of 15 in a bicycle accident. He could never go to the doctor to rectify the injury because he had no health insurance.
However, he managed to regain his vertical base, get back on his feet, and continue the match. Although he was clearly hurting, Foreman kept on fighting and made it through the remainder of the round without being knocked down or out.
Talk about a never-say-die attitude. That’s what I like to see.
Hobbling around the ring at the beginning of the eighth round, Cotto punished Foreman with his signature left hook. Foreman is known for great footwork in the ring and with his knee in its weakened condition, he was unable to dodge Cotto’s power punches.
With his man taking a good amount of abuse, Foreman’s trainer Joe Grier threw in the white towel which caused referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. to stop the fight with 1:12 left in the round. Even Foreman’s wife Leyla screamed for the ref to stop the fight because he could not move around the ring and properly defend himself.
Foreman threw up his hands, as if he wanted the fight to keep going. Mercante recognized Foreman’s effort and allowed the fight to continue after the towel was thrown in. He lasted the rest of the round and the fight moved on to the ninth round before it concluded.
The crowd seemed to be behind Cotto for the most part, as they lifted the Puerto Rican flag high over their heads as he made his way to the ring (which was positioned in right-center field). Foreman received a mixed reaction from the capacity crowd, although a strong fan base of Israeli supporters were on hand.
I have to admit, it was a great fight. I wanted to see Foreman successfully defend his title, but it doesn’t matter that he didn’t win. His stock and reputation raised probably tenfold after last night’s match. Both fighters wanted it and if Foreman was at full strength, the match could have gone a little differently.
After it was over, I gained even more respect for Foreman. Max Kellerman questioned him on why he kept fighting, even after he slipped and the towel was thrown in. Foreman said that, even though he was badly injured, he had to continue because he is the Champ; he said he had to keep fighting because the belt was on the line.
That is what you call discipline and respect–for the sport of boxing and for the title.
Over the last few weeks, I have come to appreciate boxing. Like Foreman, I have gained a lot respect for it. To thank for it I mostly have my friend and his dad, who have been boxing fans for years and years. They are what I like to call “old school boxing fans” since they know about everyone from Rocky Marciano to Mike Tyson; from Jack Dempsey to Manny Pacquiao.
But my appreciation for boxing did not just begin these last few weeks.
Last year I took a sports reporting class and we spent a week studying boxing. We watched the documentary When We Were Kings, which told the story of the famous Ali vs. George Foreman fight held in Zaire (which is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The match was dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
The documentary chronicles Ali’s wit, charisma, and amazing athletic ability. The people of Zaire were behind Ali so much that they chanted “Ali Bomaye!” which means “Kill him, Ali.” Understand that this particular chant did not mean, “Kill George Foreman in the match and win it, Ali.”
In reality it meant, “Kill him–end his life, Ali.”
The boxing fans took the sport so seriously. It just goes to show there are fans in other sports that are just as passionate as Yankee fans. Just as Derek Jeter is the face of the Yankees, Ali was the face of boxing; he was the fighter a lot of fans identified with and they backed him up all the way.
Boxing is a great sport. It saddens me that it is not a sport that is always on the back page of the newspapers; it doesn’t seem to get enough attention. I understand that football and baseball are the two sports in this country that are usually covered mostly in the mainstream athletic media.
I can only hope more people come to appreciate boxing and what it has to offer as I have. It’s nice to learn about the different backgrounds of each fighter and where they came from; what their lives have been like and how they became boxers. Usually every fighter has an interesting story.
From what I have gathered, many fans want to see Pacquiao take on Floyd Mayweather. Both boxers are revered as the best in the sport at the moment, but they have never faced each other. If they were to square off, a number of analysts and boxing writers feel the match would “bring boxing back” to the mainstream.
I’d love to see it happen. There’s nothing like watching the best face the best.