Yuri Foreman And Leila Leidecker Interview

Yuri Foreman27.06.06 - By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: Although it could easily be argued that Yuri Foreman has a million things going for him, in the end, in the interest of you the readers (this is a long interview and well worth it at that), I have decided to narrow the list down significantly to just three things.

First, Yuri is a great, undefeated prospect, with a truly unique boxing style by today’s pro standards, who has already received exposure on Showtime’s Shobox: The New Generation, as well as ESPN’s “FNF,” plus a few local channels along the way. Second, he is one of only a handful of Jewish boxers fighting, and representing the proud traditions of the sweet science, initiated by Daniel Mendoza, and continued by the likes of Barney Ross, Benny Leonard, and Al “Bummy” Davis. Third, and probably most important is………..well……let’s put it this way: If someone was foolish enough to insult, or worst of all, attack Yuri for no apparent reason, Yuri’s left jab, straight right combo would be the least of the victim’s problems. More than likely, Yuri’s wife, Leyla Leidecker, would be first on the scene, beating up and knocking out anybody trying to give her husband a hard time, because surprisingly, she is a fighter, too.

If that wasn’t enough, to make someone eat their heart out, it should also be mentioned that Leyla was at one time a model, who traveled all over the world. Furthermore, as Yuri says, “she is smart, almost too smart,” which is why, I wouldn’t forgive myself, if I wouldn’t offer all the ESB readers, the chance to get to know two boxers for the price of one.

By themselves, either Yuri or Leyla’s interviews would easily be the best that I have ever conducted. Together? Well, let's just say you should be thankful ESB doesn’t charge its readers. Without further ado:

Yuri Foreman

ESB: Hey Yuri! Congratulations on the win!

Yuri Foreman: Thanks.

ESB: The reviews of the fight that I was able to read, criticized you for the inability to knockout your opponent. At that time, however, the critics probably didn’t know and didn’t mention that you seriously damaged your hand. Can you tell us when it happened and how?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, it happened in about the 3rd round. I broke the middle finger on my left hand, and sustained some ligament damage. The problem was, they gave us these lead gloves, that were really made for heavyweights, and that’s why my hands were loose inside them. Of course, we asked to change them, and they brought another three pairs, but they were basically almost identical.

I never really had problems with my hands before. I think I hit him in the forehead or somewhere hard like that, and screwed up my hand. After that, I couldn’t really…..basically, every time I threw my jab, I felt like I was being stabbed with a needle. That is why the fight wasn’t really great. Also, I mean, the guy was dirty and awkward. It was tough for me because I really wanted to impress the public.

ESB: Were you afraid the ringside physicians could stop the fight?

Yuri Foreman: Oh no, not really because they didn’t know. I told my trainer that my hand hurts, and then after that I couldn’t do much more then fight on with the injury. It's not really the first time it happened. I had an amateur fight where I broke the thumb on my right hand. I won that fight, too. So, basically, I already had this experience and really just had to overcome this once more.

ESB: How did the surgery go? How long will it take for the hand to heal up?

Yuri Foreman: It went fine. Operating doctor was Charles Malone, and I don’t know if you know him, but he is a specialist, who’s job it is to fix everybody’s hands. He has operated on Malignaggi, Gatti, many Basketball players. He put some screws in my hand and I will have it in a cast for 6 weeks. After they take off the cast, I will go through physical therapy.

ESB: So what will you do now?

Yuri Foreman: Now, I will watch the World Cup. The injury couldn’t have happened at a better time, basically.

ESB: (laughing) So who are you cheering for?

Yuri Foreman: Germany and also Argentina and Croatia. Ukraine played so bad, they didn’t push or press on the gas at all. You can’t count on just one player, that being Shevchenko.

ESB: So, any idea of what kind of opponent you will face when you come back? It will probably be in a few months or so, I guess?

Yuri Foreman: At least three. Doctor told me at the least two and a half, three months no hitting the bag, nothing. As far as opponents, I have no clue, that is the Matchmaker’s and manager’s job. They tell me who to fight and I train to fight them.

ESB: Even without the injury, you were criticized before for not having a KO punch. Do you think that is a fair criticism coming from boxing writers and journalists?

Yuri Foreman: You know, for me, it's all a process of adaptation to the pro’s. I have a punch and a very good one at that, it's just I still have that amateur mentality of fighting, where I try to earn points more so than knock the guy out. Of course, we are constantly working on that and it is getting better. Also, I fought these hard-headed guys very often. I just hope the work I put in training in the gym will pay off and the public can see that in the ring.

ESB: A few years back, you said in an interview that you are not ready to fight the elite guys at your weight. Has that opinion changed? Which of these guys were you able to spar with, and if it's not a secret, how did you do?

Yuri Foreman: I am definately all ready to fight those guys. Now……..hmmmm….Basically, nobody. Only other prospect type fighters like me. Guys like, Oscar Diaz, Kendall Holt,…..Teddy Reid, but he is not a prospect, obviously. Basically, young guys on their way up, like me.

ESB: If all the questions regarding contracts and money were already ironed out, who would you like to fight right now or in your next fight?

Yuri Foreman: I think a bout with Fernando Vargas would be great. So, I would choose him. Who else? Of course….and this is a bit audacious(laughing)…….but I would to fight Oscar De La Hoya. That is more so like a fight for fame and money. He is like a cash cow, that is why many boxers want a fight with him.

ESB: (laughing) Are your managers talking with anybody?

Yuri Foreman: I just signed a contract with Top Rank, so they are handling my career. Now with the injury, though, all negotiations take a backseat and everybody is thinking about something or somebody else.

ESB: Who do you consider the strongest in your weight and how shouldn’t you fight him? What is his greatest strength?

Yuri Foreman: I would say Roman Karmazin.

ESB: But he is Jr. Middleweight?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, so am I.

ESB: On Boxrec, I think they indicated you’re a middleweight, that is why I ask.

Yuri Foreman: I know they make elementary mistakes like that quite often. See, I had a couple of fights where I weighed a pound over the limit, but that is allowed in the contract. So, I weighed, say 155, so they probably put me in the next category. I am a Jr. Middleweight, though.

ESB: Well, if Karmazin, then tell us how one shouldn’t fight him?

Yuri Foreman: I only saw him once against Kassim Ouma, and he is generally very problematic all around. He has long hands and he is tall. I think, you should try to stay away from the inside with him. However, this also depends on the opponent. If somebody is better than him on the inside, like a Toney type guy, then it is probably more beneficial to do that. I would try to box him, of course. By the way, I met him a couple of years ago. He is a good guy. A good person and a good boxer as well.

ESB: You have a very unique way of fighting compared to other fighters in boxing today. Like you said on Showtime, from a young age, you got used to moving and using your legs, not just to set up your punches. Why do you think there aren’t more boxers who fight the way you do?

Yuri Foreman: You know, mostly the trainers in all the gyms, I ever went to, they tell their students, if they start to move, to like, think on their own, improvise, to not waste their time or energy, just standing in place. Also, like say, when I was a kid, I watched Ali’s fights and he moved basically for all 15 rounds, like most of the rounds, he was moving.
So, I think, trainers try to get their fighters to conserve energy and many of them can’t move that much. Plus, most importantly, I think they want the fights to be interesting for the public, sort of like “take this, give that, take more,” and then you have your exchanges your wars and your dollars. Everyone knows what the public likes to see. Like, Gatti - Ward, for instance.

ESB: Meaning KO or nothing?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, yeah. Furthermore, like my trainer tells me, throw and land a punch without getting hit by one. It annoys me when I get hit. Nobody likes it, of course, but why get hit when you can just move?

ESB: Which PPV card did you see, Cotto or Hopkins?

Yuri Foreman: I watched the PPV with Pauli, because he is a friend of mine and we were on the same team competing in different tournaments as amateurs. He is a good guy; we train together in the same gym. You know, I think they threw him in there too early. Two or three more fights, and he would have had an easier time of it. You saw it, right?

ESB: Yeah, I saw it, too.

Yuri Foreman: You seen him in the first two rounds, he was very nervous, like he didn’t have the experience. Paulie wanted to, of course. He didn’t have enough experience. Got hit with those big shots in the beginning, controlled the middle rounds, and in the end, it wasn’t boxing, more like a beating, I thought….Well, I was cheering for him, of course….but I didn’t think that he would win.

ESB: Who was the toughest opponent you had so far and why?

Yuri Foreman: I think the toughest was Jesus Soto. He was the same height, kind of clumsy and hard to fight that way, and he also had a relatively good punch. Also, maybe that guy Kevin Cagle.

ESB: The one you fought on Shobox?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah. You know, now that I think about it, the hardest fight I had was against George Armenta, when I was knocked down, then knocked him down. Also, it was my first 6 rounder, so from a physical standpoint, it was my toughest fight. Of course, if I would fight him now, it would be a different story. So, I would say right now, it was that fight.

ESB: Why do you think there are so few Jewish boxers in the sport today? There were many in the beginning of last century who had a lot of accomplishments but not anymore.

Yuri Foreman: Heh! I guess they just decided to do other things. In the 30’s, there were many of them and then they just went outside the ropes and became managers. In the 30’s, life was hard, you know immigrant life, and there was this motivation to succeed, especially in sport with your firsts. So they either fought on the streets of New York, or their parents put them in boxing gyms, or they went themselves. Now, though, it’s a different time, not so hard anymore, and so they left it to do other things.

Like, say for instance, me, Dima Salita, Roma Grinberg, my friend, like we lived the immigrant’s life in Israel. We were bullied, pressed a little, not quite racism, but like we weren’t considered equal citizens. So I am not speaking for everybody but, for me personally it pushed me, it pushed me to prove that I was an equal person, sort of worthy enough to be friends with.

Same thing with Dima, he came here as an immigrant and his mother died. So probably the same process. I think if things get hard for Jews we will start seeing many more of them fighting again.

ESB: I read an interview where you mentioned going to the Lenin Mausoleum. Do you think that is really his body in there or is it a fake?

Yuri Foreman: (laughing) I think there is about 30% of his body left in there. I remember watching this show on Discovery, about how they clean his body, don’t know if you watched it, it's horrible, but interesting, too, like when they have to close down the Mausoleum for repairs, or when there are problems with his skin or there is mould gathering, they bring out another corpse to experiment on. About the time Lenin died, they found the body of this bum who died on the streets of Moscow from the cold, and they do all the experiments on him, and if it works, then they try it on Grandpa. It's like a rabbit in a laboratory or something.

ESB: (Laughing)

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, I checked on the net, I think they call him Vasya. He is nearby, in the same sort of tub but they will never show him.

ESB: Do you think president papa Lukashenko deserves the reputation of dictator that the American media has bestowed upon him?

Yuri Foreman: You know, I left when I was only 10, but my grandmother is still there, so I send her money after most of my fights. So I ask her, "how’s life," and all that, and that I read about how the media here says he is a dictator, and she says to me, “Well, we like Lukashenko.”

Though, she is already older, and the older generation is usually afraid of that sort of political change. On the Russian sites, I read that it’s the younger generation that doesn’t like him. Other than that, all I can say is my grandma likes him.

ESB: (laughing) Yeah, I understand, it's like the older people like him cause there is food on the table.

Yuri Foreman: Also, I can’t believe in everything the American media says, because it's like that mentality of crushing all opposition. They would love to have a strategic base in or around Belarus, right next to Russia.

Also, I mean, look, America rides Israel for building that fence, yet what are they doing or planning near the Mexican border? And nobody cares that they are building or they want to build a fence and so on. That is politics, though, not my kind of sport (laughing).

ESB: Do you follow current events in Israel? I know you still have family there, too. Now that the Palestinians have elected Hamas to power, do you think life will become more dangerous for most Israelis?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, I read the Russian sites often, especially about terrorist acts. I still have my dad and grandma there. His mother. It’s hard, like when I lived there, there were terrorist acts all the time. The suicide bombers blew themselves up, often. The next day, there was a funeral and remembrance of the dead and so on. Day after that, same exact people, taking same exact number, bus blown up two days before.

With Hamas in power, I think the terrorism will increase. It won’t be more dangerous, though, its too late for that. They will blow something up, Israel will fly in, shoot a couple of missiles, which will kill some terrorists and maybe some civilians and it will go on like that indefinitely.

ESB: Are you afraid for your family?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, a little but honestly, they are in the north. The north, at least to this point, has been rather quiet.

ESB: What town are they in?

Yuri Foreman: Haifa

ESB: I have family in Rishon, I think. Is that too far?

Yuri Foreman: Eh….you know everything in Israel is close.(chuckling) Maybe hour and a half drive.

ESB: (laughing) Alright, now some questions about your wife. You met Leyla at the gym, if I remember correctly. Where did you wind up going on your first date?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, Gleason’s. First date? We went to Gleason’s; they had these amateur bouts, called “White Collar Sparring.” So, the first date was there and then in the evening, we went to the movies.

ESB: Do you remember which one?

Yuri Foreman: Sure. It was that film “15 minutes,” Oleg Taktarov was in it.

ESB: Oh yeah! Of course! De Niro was in it, too.

Yuri Foreman: Yeah. I think it would have been better to say De Niro first and then Taktarov.

ESB: (Laughing) Oh no, for us it's Taktarov. What do you like the most about your wife?

Yuri Foreman: The most? You know, honestly, the whole damn package. Of course, she is very very beautiful and I love that full beauty inside and out. Another thing, I like, or rather, not like, or maybe we put in parenthesis that I like, is she is smart, and I mean like almost too smart.

ESB: Wow! you nailed the next question before I asked it. What is one habit she has that annoys you?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, in the end, I just have to admit I was wrong, and that she was actually, in fact, right.

ESB: (laughing) Diplomatic answer. Congratulations!

Yuri Foreman: (laughing) Yeah, but it's hard to do sometimes. Like, you know, I want to be first and she wants to be first and because of that, we come to blows competing.

ESB: But like that, also means you push each other to compete?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, exactly. Like my last fight, for instance. After the fight, I feel so exhausted, you know, and she like, goes in for the kill, “How can you miss so many shots? How is it possible?” She says it in English, of course, cause she is from Hungary. So, anyway, “Why weren’t you using your left? Where was the jab?” I am like starting to counterattack, feebly, cause she is right, “Honey, please, just not after the fight.” (laughing). What can you do, though? Now, if she only cooked, that wouldn’t be too bad.

ESB: I see.(laughing)

Yuri Foreman: Well, she cooks but she doesn’t like it.

ESB: So what do you do cook yourself?

Yuri Foreman: Rarely. Before, when I had time, I would make pancakes, burgers, Russian ravioli (laughing). Now, just like eggs or oatmeal. Still, Brighton isn’t too far away, so I can get some normal food there and decently priced, too.

ESB: (laughing) I see. Do you have an official nickname?

Yuri Foreman: Nah, only humorous ones, like Yuri “Fists of Fury,” "Haifah Hammer," "“Yid Kid,” "Yeshiva Boy." Usually, it's my manager who likes to joke like that.

ESB: When I talk to Leyla, I will ask her but now can you guess what nickname she would give you, if she was involved in promoting you?

Yuri Foreman: I don’t even know. I think it depends on her mood.

ESB: (laughing) What nickname would you give her?

Yuri Foreman: “Lisichka.” Foxy Chick. “Foxy” Leyla Leidecker (laughing)

ESB: (laughing) How do you feel about the fact that she is in the same, not so safe business as you?

Yuri Foreman: Well, now she only does it for herself. She does talk about coming back often. Now she only goes to the gym to stay in shape. Before, though, when she was fighting, it was probably more nerve racking and stressful for me, than for her. It’s the same for her when I box, probably. Now, though, thank God, she doesn’t box. She is working on a documentary about women in boxing, in the Golden Gloves.

ESB: Interesting. I will ask her about that. What do you do in your free time?

Yuri Foreman: I have a hobby now. I am learning how to play the piano, for like 6 months now.

ESB: Cool. Well, what do you like from, say movies?

Yuri Foreman: My favorite film is “Memento.” This guy loses his memory and uses tattoos and notes to figure out who killed his wife. This Australian actor is in it, I just forgot his name………(Asking Leyla)…Guy Pierce. Watch it, it’s a good flick.

ESB: I noticed on your site, you like Metallica and the Stones. I listen to them a bit, too. What songs do you like the most?

Yuri Foreman: From Metallica, of course, "Nothing else Matters." Also Puppet Master. Black Album is probably my favorite. Also, if you notice, hard rock is making a comeback, like on TV and all VH1. The Stones, I like "Start Me Up." Usually, I like rock from the 80’s 90’s. Hard Rock, Rock, Classic Rock, that is my favorite genre. Otherwise, I can get into anything.

ESB: What about Russian Rock?

Yuri Foreman: Very much so. DDT, Kino, Lyube but that is from the older stuff. DDT is my favorite group.

ESB: Cool! I like that stuff, too. I read on your site, you read Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita? Did you have a chance to watch the new mini series yet?

Yuri Foreman: You know, I heard about it and I wanted to but I didn’t have the chance, yet. I loved the book, though. Did you watch it?

ESB: Yeah, of course. Personally, I loved the way they did it, but I read there were many criticisms.

Yuri Foreman: You know, I also read a lot of criticisms online. Like one person will say something good, then somebody will say something silly, like “the book was better.” Of course, the book is better, that is almost always so. It's hard to make everything accurate, especially with Bulgakov. Also, I read they offered Valuev a role in it, but he declined.

ESB: Yeah, he was supposed to play Krysoboi the Roman soldier.

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, yeah, I think that would have been awesome for his career. In Russia, everybody probably watched that series and, of course, they all know the book.

ESB: Very true. Now can you tell us about your site

Yuri Foreman: Well, a friend of Leyla’s is a web designer, so he did it for relatively cheap. First, we had a pretty bad forum but it has gotten better now.

ESB: I think it’s great that you talk with your fans and people who cheer for you on there.

Yuri Foreman: Basically, 99% of the people and responses are positive. Once in a while, there is one person, who starts cursing and saying, “Your nothing, they will kill you,” etc.

ESB: You know, it is just the teenagers who do that.

Yuri Foreman: You know, I see it on Eastside, too, sometimes, on the forums, the people can’t talk in a civil manner.

ESB: That is true. Still, like I read, you let your fans pick your entrance music for each fight? What songs have they picked?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, yeah, at first, I entered to Queen’s, “Another one bites the Dust,” or “We Will Rock You.” Then there was Iggy Pop, or the Ramones, “Hey Ho, let’s go.” (laughing) I think they use that song for some commercial, so I don’t want to use the same one. Last couple of times, I entered to Jimi Hendrix, “Purple Haze.” Last fight was in Vegas and I forgot my CD, so my manager brings me that, you know, Matisyahu?

ESB: Oh yeah, the Jewish Rapper.

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, my friend, Dima Salita, enters the ring to him. So I told my manager, “no way, I won’t enter to that, that is like Dima’s anthem or something.” He is more religious than me and I don’t want to interfere with that. Plus, like I said, I like rock and heavy more. One time, I thought I would enter to something Russian, like maybe DDT.

ESB: That would be incredible!

Yuri Foreman: I just don’t think anybody would understand. When I was an amateur in the 90’s, just starting out, and I was dreaming about my pro entrance, I heard that song “Kombat,” by Lyube; you remember “Kombat, Batyana, Batyana, Kombat….” Once, I heard that one, I was like, THAT IS IT!, that will be my song when I fight. (laughing) Usually, the Russian guys come out to that Europe thing, “Final Countdown,” Timur Ibragimov, I think. Oh, and Maskaev, for one fight, comes out, and then this starts playing, “Kalinka, Malinka……….”(laughing).

ESB: (laughing) You’re kidding; Against who?

Yuri Foreman: (laughing) Don’t remember, exactly; it was in Atlantic City, maybe when he fought Johnson. He lost that one, I think.

ESB: Oh, and how. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to come out to Kalinka.

Yuri Foreman: (laughing) I think his manager tried to be a little too clever there. I think anything is good, as long as it motivates you, pushes you. Like I said, for me Matisyahu doesn’t do it. They let me pick between Pantera, Sepultura and something else.

ESB: So what did you pick?

Yuri Foreman: Iggy Pop, Search and Destroy. Really, it should have been something harder, maybe than the fight wouldn’t have been so hard (laughing).

ESB: Well, how about Aria, then?

Yuri Foreman: Oh, of course! By the way, I was at their concert in Israel, a long time ago; I was working there as a bouncer, sort of. You know how if somebody climbs on stage, you push them back? My friend found the job for me. Anyway, the drunken youths start to climb up on stage as usual and, well, it got a little rough! (laughing)

ESB: (laughing) WOW! I am jealous. Aria won’t come to America. Did you like the concert at least?

Yuri Foreman: Yeah, it was great. Although my place was next to the speaker, so after two hours, I was basically deaf.

ESB: (laughing) Yuri, it was great talking to you. Do you want to say something to your fans in closing?

Yuri Foreman: I want to thank all my fans for their support. I wish everybody the best. I want to thank you too for your time. You are helping me out here. Also, I want to thank Eastsideboxing. Leyla probably spends 90% of her time online there. She could become a manager, she knows every fighter’s name. Once in a while, she says “remember him?,” “who is that,” and without hesitation she knows who it is. So, thanks to Eastsideboxing, and thanks to all the fans.

Leyla Leidecker

ESB: Hey Leyla! Did you go with Yuri to Vegas to watch his fight?

L.L.: Yeah, of course I did.

ESB: How do you think he did?

L.L.: He was very challenged; He just didn’t look like he normally looks because obviously, he broke his hand in the 2nd or 3rd round. Plus, I mean, he broke his jabbing hand and that is the foundation of his style. Normally, he is jabbing all night long. His hand is really damaged now and they had to basically reconstruct it. Torn ligaments, broken bones. So it was stopping him from being himself and he ended up not punching as much as he normally does.

ESB: Still, he won every round.

L.L.: He won every round, but the thing is, it was his first fight in Las Vegas, and he needed to do more than JUST win the rounds. He wanted to impress the public and that was his real focus. So relative to this, he feels he didn’t do well. I mean, he didn’t just want to win, he wanted to win impressively; Beautifully!

ESB: Do you ever train in camp together or in between fights? You do run together right?

L.L.: Eh, not really; He runs much faster and longer than I do.

ESB: What distance do you usually cover?

L.L.: I normally run across the Brooklyn Bridge; it’s near our house, so I don’t know how long that is. He runs much longer than I do. I am just a hobby boxer now; I don’t compete anymore.

ESB: Are you thinking of coming back and competing in some tournaments in the near future?

L.L.: I don’t know, right now, maybe I’ll change my mind in the future. Right now, I am just busy doing other things. Right now I am working on a documentary film on the NY Golden Gloves; I wanna finish that.

ESB: Yeah, Yuri mentioned it. What is the title going to be? Tell us a bit about it?

L.L: Oh, it's called “Golden Gloves,” and it's about the women’s side of boxing in the NY Golden Gloves.

ESB: Are you focusing on any particular boxers?

L.L.: I followed 2 weight divisions, but it’s more about the history of the event. The Golden Gloves have been around since 1928 in New York, and it wasn’t until 95, when they finally let women enter the tournament and it was only after they sued them and the ACLU got involved. So, it’s just about the 10 years of women’s boxing, and how even today women are still not getting the same opportunities as men. Boxing is the only sport that is not Co-ed in the olympics. Wrestling, Weightlifting, and so on. Everything else is for men and women. It’s a good movie.

ESB: When is it gonna be coming out? Is it going to be video? Theatre?

L.L.: Hopefully soon. It’s going to be for television.

ESB: Like National TV?

L.L.: I hope so. I am talking with various channels. I have the first 15 minutes ready and I am sending it out and I received a lot of positive responses. Still, it has to be finished before I can put it on.

ESB: Which channels can we look to carry it? NBC? ABC?

L.L: No, no, more like Discovery. It’s more like a Social/Sports film.

ESB: How many amateur bouts have you had and what is your record? Who were some of your tougher foes and why?

L.L.: Six. I won 4 and lost 2. I couldn’t do any national tournaments because I am not a citizen, so I could only compete locally. So it was not worth it, cause there were not that many fights around. My third fight, I fought 2-time national champ Theresa O’ Toole, and was able to come out victorious.

ESB: Did you ever think about turning pro?

L.L.: Sometimes when I have a good day at the gym, I am like “oh, maybe I should turn pro?,” but, you know, to turn pro, you need to be so dedicated. At this time, I just have so many other things in my life, though. Still, once in a while, I play with the idea that I will one day turn pro and fight some tomato can.

ESB: (Laughing) Maybe on the same card as Yuri?

L.L.: Eh, not on the same card as Yuri because when I fight, he is basically on the verge of either a nervous breakdown or a heart attack. Everybody used to make fun of him because he used to just go crazy, running, and jumping off the walls, screaming, but at the same time, when he fights, then I am so nervous, probably much more than him because it's, like, you can’t do nothing about anything.

ESB: Who would you say is the best female fighter in the world right now and why?

L.L.: Umm, I don’t know, because they get so little exposure, that it is impossible to tell. The one people normally see is Laila Ali, but it's never because she is so good, or she is so tested. She normally fights somebody from a much lower weight class, overweight, or coming out of retirement for a good paycheck.

ESB: I see, so it is basically just because she gets the exposure?

L.L.: Yeah, she is the one who gets most of the exposure and usually its not even an exciting fight, just like a beat down. Basically, Laila Ali beating up a smaller, fatter, older woman and people are not going to find that all too exciting.

ESB: What about Lucia Rijker?

L.L.: I have never seen her fight. I have seen plenty of pictures of her and I think she gets good press but she never fights. I don’t even know how old she is. She is not very young. I saw that documentary of her, but that was only like highlights. You can’t judge a fighter from like two punches or hitting the pads. It’s very hard to say.

There are some girls in Gleason’s, who I think might have a bright future, but it's definitely not the most talented female fighters who get the most exposure. Like say, there is this girl Alicia Ashley, she works, she has a day job, she is like a world champion already, how many times? And she gets absolutely no attention. I mean, her brother gets her fights. Sometimes she gets a fight for like 200 dollars or she goes to China, or jumps to basically any weight division, cause she don’t care
she just likes to fight.

ESB: What is the biggest fight that can be made in women’s boxing today?

L.L.: Well, there is just no fight to be made because it all depends on marketing. So even if you have the best female fighter in the world and she has no exposure, no one will know about her and so nobody will care. So that is why people like Christy Martin, who I don’t know maybe was good 20 years ago, but she gets big fights because of her name, because there somebody put the work in, and advertised her, and put her on Tyson undercards, so people are at least aware of her name.

In order to have a big fight like that, somebody has to put in the work and build up a fighter; you know, do some P.R. work. Otherwise, it has no public significance and thereby, doesn’t mean anything.

ESB: Do you think the participation of celebrities, like Tanya Harding and Mia St. John, is a good or a bad thing for boxing?

L.L.: Eh… Its bad when fans see and recognize that kind of fighting, and are exposed only to that kind of unskilled fighter. So then they say, “this is women’s boxing?” after seeing somebody who has been boxing only say 2 months. If that is the only thing they ever see, then they will say, “oh, girls better not box then because they can’t.”

It’s sort of like what happened with women’s tennis. In the 70’s, when women started to hit mainstream tennis, people thought it was just a few untalented butch lesbians. Look at it now, though, there is probably more money in women’s tennis than in men’s tennis.

ESB: So you think there is that kind of potential in women’s boxing?

L.L.: Maybe not as much because many people don’t like boxing, including men’s boxing, because they think its too violent, but you know its possible, it could be, though obviously there is a lot of work that needs to be done first.

ESB: Besides the level of skill, what differences exist between male and female boxing?

L.L.: Well, there are much less female boxers, so in that sense, there is less competition and that is good, on the one hand, but also there is no room for development of good female fighters because there aren’t that many good opponents. Also, I mean, the guys you see on HBO, have been boxing since they were like eight years old. You need lot's of time to develop a woman to be a master of the science like a man.

ESB: Tell us a bit about how and why you came here?

L.L.: I used to model for a long time and I came here for a job, and really I was just bored with what I was doing.

ESB: In Hungary?

L.L.: No, I mean, I worked everywhere. Italy, Germany, Australia, France. Like most places, I just got bored with traveling and with what I was doing, so I just stopped.

ESB: Do you still have family in Hungary? Do you speak with them often?

L.L.: Oh yeah! When I moved to New York, in the beginning, I used to go home back and forth every month. Now I am involved in many things, so it’s harder.

ESB: Do they come here?

L.L: Yeah, they come every year and in between send me packages and stuff. My mom comes here often.

ESB: Besides Yuri, who are some of your favorite male boxers?

L.L.: I like Ricky Hatton, because during Yuri’s fight, I was sitting with him, and I just found him to be so charismatic. He was sitting with his brother and manager, in front of us. He was in Vegas because he was going to challenge the winner of Castillo Corrales, but obviously you know he couldn’t. Skill wise, though, I like smart boxers, like say, Bernard Hopkins.

ESB: didn’t see that fight yet?

L.L.: No, because Paulie was fighting, and obviously he is our friend, and we train in the same gym, so we were watching his fight.

ESB: What did you think of Paulie?

L.L.: I think it was too soon for him, and he was so nervous in the first few rounds, that he couldn’t do what he is capable of doing. In the first few rounds, he got hit with a couple of shots that definitely affected his game plan. I think he could have beaten Cotto, if this fight happened three fights later. There was so much pressure on him. I mean, it’s a PPV and suddenly the whole world is watching, and he didn’t even realize it, he probably thought he wouldn’t be nervous but you could see in the first round he was just panicking he couldn’t find his rhythm, his style. Later, I think, he was just too hurt. He could have been better, though. It was his plan to box, but instead, he wound up trying to fight. Like he knows what he is capable of, he knows he won’t knock Cotto on his ass. Normally, he is just so fast and hard to hit, but he just couldn’t deliver, mostly cause he was nervous.

ESB: Interesting. What would your entrance music be if you were to turn pro?

L.L.: Some good disco. Maybe, Grace Jones; she used to be a singer in the 70’s or 80’s.

ESB: What nickname would you give yourself?

L.L.: No nickname

ESB: Some questions about Yuri. If you were doing P.R. work for him what boxing nickname would you give him?

L.L.: I don’t know. I gave him like a million names but those are for us. None of them would be fitting for a boxer.

ESB: Name the one thing you like the most about Yuri?

L.L.: Eh, it's gotta be longer than one.

ESB: (laughing) Well, you can name as many as you want.

L.L.: I think he is a very good person. He is ummm……he has natural wisdom. He might be like some sort of old soul , he is just so considerate for everybody around him in every situation. He is very funny, like always in a good mood. Its very healthy for me too because I can be depressed, in a bad mood but he is the kind of person who doesn’t understand how that can happen.

ESB: Like how to be depressed?

L.L.: Yeah! Because he is always like above that sort of. He is always a very happy person but not a selfishly happy person.

ESB: Name a habit of his that you can’t stand?

L.L.: Nothing that I really can’t stand but he is too clean and tidy, like almost obsessively. More than I like, even. He always has respect for everything. He is always folding everything, his T Shirts, organizes his gloves. In the evening, he packs his bags. I find very many boxers like that who are just always organized.

ESB: So that drives you nuts a little bit?

L.L.:Yeah, you know, like I don’t believe in folding stuff, and he will spend half an hour folding stuff.

ESB: Do you like or dislike the fact that your husband participates in the same not so safe profession as you?

L.L.: Yes, I like it because I have more understanding of what’s going on and who Yuri is as a person. I wouldn’t imagine I can live with a boxer if I would not be a boxer. Like this, you understand what is going on and what is helpful in certain situations. It’s good because I feel I can be helpful to him. To make sure he eats and so on, because he can forget to eat.

ESB: He says you don’t cook that much?

L.L.: I don’t cook anything special and if I do, he doesn’t like it so we leave it at that (laughing). If I cook, it's eggs, chicken, or I put potatoes in the microwave. Not a big cook, not intent to be one, although maybe one day.

ESB: Do you remember where you went on your first date?

L.L: I think we went to see a movie and our second date was a week before the Golden Glove finals. So, for that he gave me a ticket to see his fight in the final in MSG.

ESB: Do you remember who he fought?

L.L.: He was a Leon (Yuri in background saying name) ……….Hinds

ESB: Cool. Do you want to say anything to the folks who will read this interview?

L.L.: Nope! Nothing I can think of at the moment.

ESB: Leyla, I want to thank you for your time.

L.L.: Oh, it was my pleasure. Goodbye!

I want to thank both Yuri and Leyla for the amount of time and the amount of information they shared with me in this interview. Also, I want to wish Yuri the best of luck and that his hand heals quickly so we can see him in the ring and better yet on TV. Here is to hoping Leyla’s film on the Golden Gloves will hit our TV screens soon as it sounds very interesting.

Also check out Yuri’s website and leave him some comments.

On the horizon: Interviews with Dmitri Kirillov, Alicia Ashley (fighter who Leyla mentioned), and most likely Roman Karmazin.

Article posted on 28.06.2006

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