As a writer I need to be inspired in order to write. Last night after the fights I logged on to my Facebook page and was inspired. I went right to Yuri Foreman’s page and wrote the following message on his wall without even a hesitation. “Your Faith, Will and Determination are truly an inspiration to me and many others Yuri! You always have and continue to leave an impact on those who are blessed to see you perform. Thank you!”
I have a very interesting story about my friendship with Yuri. In 2003, I was brought to Hector Roca by my then trainer, now manager Luigi Olcese, to train for the 2004 Daily News Golden Gloves. Hector at that time was also training Leyla Leidecker, Yuri Forman’s wife, who also fought at the 125-lbs weight class. I had a lot of respect for Leyla as a fighter, she was an accomplished amateur. She and I trained at different times and never sparred, but did have friendly conversation on several occasions. I remember training and seeing Yuri watching me spar as he jumped rope, or watch me shadow box. I never gave it much thought. Then came my Golden Gloves quarter final bout which took place in Red Hook Brooklyn in 2004. In the Golden Gloves you draw numbers to see who you will fight. That evening, Leyla and I drew each other. This would be an awkward situation being that we were both trained by the same trainer. In fairness, Hector Roca worked Leyla’s corner because he had been her trainer longer. Also in her corner was Yuri Foreman. I defeated Leyla in a great competitive bout and advanced to the semifinals. We gave each other much respect. I will never forget Yuri coming up to me after the bout and saying that he thought I was a very good fighter and gave me much respect as well. After this fight, Leyla very graciously helped me prepare for future bouts. I saw Yuri in the gym every day after having boxed against his wife. He would show up on his bike and back pack on his shoulder. He was always training hard and always extremely focused. Yuri has a great personality. He jokes around and is always up for good conversation, as long as his training is complete. I would watch Yuri with admiration and respect for how hard this man trained every day. I would observe Yuri’s sparring session in order to learn just as I did countless other talented male fighters at Gleason’s including Paulie Malignaggi, Vivian Harris, John Duddy and Pawel Wolack. One thing I also noticed with Yuri was the man who was glued to his side throughout his training sessions always pushing him, his second, Pedro Saiz.
I parted ways professionally with Gleason’s and Hector Roca in August of 2009, and began training in New Jersey with Tommy Brooks and Aroz “Terrific” Gist. Tommy had been called out to California to work on a project and left me in the excellent care of Terrific while he was gone. A month before my last fight which took place at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx, my manager Luig Olcese felt that I needed more one on one attention being that Terrific had many other fighters and could only dedicate 3 days a week to me fairly. Luigi then mentioned one name to me, Pedro Saiz. I immediately said yes. The first thing that came to mind was Pedro’s dedication and work with Yuri Foreman that I observed over the years. I began training with Pedro and Terrific together and felt that my team had been formed. In my first week with Pedro I knew exactly why Yuri always kept Pedro with him. Pedro has a calming energy about him. He is patient, smart, calculating and strategic in his training. I won my bout via TKO in the third round. (view here)
Last night, watching Yuri fight at Yankee Stadium was even more inspirational for me. He is a man committed to his Faith, a dedicated athlete, a World Champion, and an all around good person. What is there not to be inspired by…When I turned pro Yuri always wished me luck and congratulated me on my success. I became not only a friend but a fan of Yuri Foreman. I want to say a heartfelt Thank You to Yuri for continuing to be a role model and inspiration for those who share his passion for their spiritual beliefs, dedication to their craft and sincerity to their character.