Michael Rosenthal

Foreman out to prove he belongs with best

Yuri Foreman said his memory of his bizarre fight against Miguel Cotto last June at Yankee Stadium is a bit fuzzy. And that’s probably good.

It was the kind of night a fighter would prefer to forget.

Foreman went into it as an undefeated junior middleweight titleholder and left it a former titleholder with a torn meniscus in his right knee. And that’s not to mention the drama involving referee Arthur Mercante Jr.

“It was all pretty confusing,” Foreman said. “I look at it now as something that happened in the past.”

Foreman had reconstructive surgery and has completed rehab, leaving the knee stronger than ever. And he’s due back in the ring on Saturday night, when he’ll face Pawel Wolak on the Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga undercard in Las Vegas on pay-per-view TV.

The Cotto fight isn’t easily forgotten, though.

The craziness began in the seventh round of a fight Cotto was winning fairly convincingly, when Foreman’s right knee – weakened by a childhood injury — buckled and he slipped to the canvas.

The same thing happened twice more in the eighth round, prompting trainer Joe Grier to throw in a towel to stop the fight. At that, the ring filled with people and it appeared the strange night was over.

However, throwing in a towel to stop a fight is not allowed in New York. Thus, Mercante – who asked Foreman whether he wanted to continue and received a “yes” – had the ring cleared and ordered the fight to resume.

A blow to Foreman’s stomach finally prompted Mercante to end the fight 42 seconds into the ninth round.

Afterward, Foreman was lauded for his courage. He bravely exchanged punches with one of most-accomplished fighters in the world on one good leg.

“It was nice to hear that, to know that some people appreciated it,” he said.

Not all the comments he heard and read were so positive, though. Some actually questioned his courage by suggesting he fought scared before the injury, a surprising sentiment given Foreman’s slick style.

And then there was Mercante, who was widely vilified for allowing the fight to continue in light of Foreman’s injury. Clearly, he couldn’t move about the ring effectively.

Foreman was asked a few days ago to assess Mercante’s performance. He wanted to be diplomatic but obviously took issue with the official.

“That’s a complicated question,” he said. “To look at it as a fighter is one thing and as someone on the outside it’s another. As a fighter, I was happy he didn’t stop it. He let me continue a little bit more. At the same time, when a fighter is competing at that level and is immobile – giving him little chance of winning – perhaps stopping the fight would’ve been the right thing. Especially when the ref has to protect you.

“So, you know, he has to make the fight last longer so the fans can enjoy it … but not at the expense of my knee.”

Again, though, Foreman has moved on.

He no longer wears his ever-present knee brace, so confident is he in the strength of his reconstructed joint. He also believes he has more punching power because he can push off the leg more effectively now.

And he believes his one-fight reign as a 154-pound titleholder (after taking the belt from Daniel Santos) was no fluke; he sees himself as an elite fighter even if some others don’t.

His first step in proving that will be the fight with Wolak, a pressure fighter from Poland whose style is well suited for a boxer like Foreman.

Then, if things go well, we could soon see Foreman in another title fight – this time with a good leg and presumably a different referee.

“I feel like I have something to prove now,” he said. “I definitely want to show that I’m a world champion, to show what I can do over 12 rounds.”

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