New York is a city like none other, and big events almost seem commonplace in the Big Apple. Yet tonight’s fight between Puerto Rican and fan favorite Miguel Cotto and rabbinical student Yuri Foreman is making waves in Gotham. From a giant billboard in Times Square to major television and newspaper coverage throughout the city, the return of boxing to Yankee Stadium is creating a buzz.
Yesterday, the fighters stepped on the scale at one of the most bustling weigh-ins I’ve ever seen, as the field was being transformed into a boxing Mecca for 35,000. Both fighters made weight, with Cotto at 153½ and Foreman right at the 154-pound limit.
After stepping off the scales, Foreman wasted no time in grabbing a banana and juice behind the stage. I asked what it meant to him to be part of the first championship fight at the new Yankee Stadium, given the history of the old stadium with the likes of Louis vs. Schmeling and Benny Leonard vs. Lew Tendler. “It means putting my name next to those guys, making history. It is a great honor,” he said.
Foreman was relaxed and comfortable; he walked out to see the work on the field, and seemed to be enjoying the spectacle. Cotto, on the other hand, was all business, partly due to hundreds of supporters making it impossible to move freely anywhere in the stadium.
Trainer Emanuel Steward said, “I’m very comfortable with way he is; training was way better than I ever expected.” Before training Cotto, Steward had stated concern over his balance, which often led to Cotto eating uppercut lefts. “Before he was fighting with his weight and everything on his left foot, he couldn’t effectively put combinations together. But early in his career, he boxed very well; we got him back to doing what he used to do.”
If Steward has found a way for Cotto to land his left hook to Foreman’s body and throw good combinations without opening himself to the hard punches he has taken in his career, it could be a tough night for Foreman.
Before the “Slugfest at the Stadium” main event, another junior middleweight will battle his way into title contention. Vanes Martirosyan (Ring Magazine #8) will face Joe Greene (WBC #12, WBA #9) in a 10-round bout to be carried on HBO.
While most see the former Olympian Martirosyan as the favorite, the Greene camp seems to find motivation as a confident underdog. “We can’t stop the public from talking, if they make us an underdog, so be it. We came to win,” said trainer Joe Greene Sr.
Greene himself stated he feels very confident, as far as being less mentioned in the press, “I don’t really care about the press, I know what I need to do in the ring,” he declared, bluntly.
Despite Martirosyan seeming to have more than the officially-listed two-inch height advantage, Team Greene feels tomorrow night will be their night. Although they didn’t say it directly, it seemed that Martirosyan’s difficulties recently leading up to a controversial decision win over Kassim Ouma have the Greene camp very confident. “It could’ve been an off [night] for him,’ the senior Greene added, “There’s a lot of things we see that we can exploit.”
Another junior middleweight also looks to rise in the rankings is Pawel Wolak, who tries to notch his 27th with against one loss (with 17 KOs), as he faces James Moore, 17-2 (10). One of Moore’s losses came to hands of Foreman, and this may be his final chance to become a contender at 154 pounds.
-In a throwback to boxing’s sometimes sordid past, one of Jersey-based Tony Soprano’s crime associates was seen openly shaking hands and posing for pictures. “Paulie Walnuts,” with his signature silver wings of hair, was hobnobbing with press and friends at the weigh-in. Owing me a personal favor, Paulie confided to me to look for “Cotto by a knockout in four.” When pressed as to why only four, Paulie simply said, “I don’t wanna waste time.”
-Actually, boxing fan and actor Tony Sirico, of “The Sopranos” fame, was at the weigh-in looking the part of his signature role, and in his trademark voice of “Paulie Walnuts,” Sirico made the aforementioned prediction.
-Being peppered with questions regarding the possible Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight, promoter Bob Arum remarked, “We’ve agreed to the 14-day drug-testing; what will they want next, mammograms?”
-Bob Arum also quoted the figure of 23,000 for attendance at Saturday’s fight. Previous reports all had the figure at 30,000.
-I asked ring announcer Michael Buffer of his prediction and he offered that he thought the fight would go all 12 rounds; yet in a showman’s style, Buffer refused to reveal his choice of victor.