21.06.07 – By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: On the 9th of this month, Yuri Foreman and his wife Leyla Leidecker celebrated a razor thin decision win over Anthony Thompson in MSG on the undercard of Cotto-Judah. Besides the joyful sentiment of a hard fought victory of such a nature, and the apparent title shot that accompanies it, now there is another accomplishment the Foremans can pride themselves on achieving. On June 22nd Leyla’s documentary film entitled, “Golden Gloves,” will be screened at the San Antonio Film Festival in George W. Bush’s home state of Texas.
Before they left, I had a chance to speak with both of them regarding those dual accomplishments.
ESB: Tell us what impression the fight and your opponent left on you?
Yuri Foreman: Happy with the win but not with the way the bout itself went. Disappointed, to be honest. I feel good now only because I can go to sleep without Anthony Thompson being there. Basically, I trained for two months for this fight, and every day throughout this period, I went to sleep, said goodnight to Leyla, as well as to Anthony Thompson, who was right there next to us.
Yuri Foreman: So that is how the three of us lived together, but now it’s just me and the wife, which is more pleasant. Not a day went by without me thinking about him. I even thought about him on Shabbos. I pretty much told my trainer, “how can I get rid of this guy’s picture in my head.”
On the other hand, when I trained, Thompson’s image fueled me, and the desire to prepare better increased. I hit the bag, saw Thompson’s face, and hit the bag even harder.
ESB: Larry Merchant commented that Leyla is your biggest critic and that after a fight like this you will not be getting off so easy. Who was tougher on you: Thompson or Leyla?
Yuri Foreman: You know after this fight she wasn’t too harsh. Yeah, she made some suggestions but this time I got off lightly. When we get the tapes we’ll analyze them together in more detail, as usual, and maybe then she will make a few more points.
ESB: I think you were criticized unfairly for being the only one who clinched. It seemed you were both doing it equally.
Yuri Foreman: For some reason they only got on my case, and I’m not arguing the point, I mean, yeah, I had to clinch as well, because usually if he grabbed one arm I had to grab his other one for balance, but he did the same just as many times.
ESB: Yes, when Maskaev fought Rahman, around the middle of the bout, Nady stopped warning Oleg for clinches because from around that point he wasn’t just clinching, but trying to keep his balance, when Rahman started charging at him like a bull. The same is true here basically. Thompson was trying to mess up your balance and you his.
Yuri Foreman: We tried to prepare for this, so I had enough stamina and strength not to tire as much in case he would fight in that manner. That is why in the last few rounds I was a little better thanks to what we did in the gym.
He also angered me pretty well, and in about the 5th round, I was ready to just toss him onto the canvas over my hip. Use some Judo (laughing). I already had him under the arms and then thought to myself, “Nah they’ll take a point away.”
However, what really ticked me off more then anything was his hair…..I had so much hair in my mouth, even now I get sick just thinking about it.
ESB: (laughing) On the other hand, they also noted he could have been DQ’d for going into the ring like that, and neither he, nor his team, fastening it into place. In the past, guys with the same hair had a special corner man whose job it was just to fasten hair.
Yuri Foreman: True but a few times they got in his face, too.
ESB: Besides the hair, and also astrology, Larry announced the winner would get a chance to fight for a title. Is that true?
Yuri Foreman: Yes, that was mentioned, but it’s too early to discuss now. By the way, it was kind of interesting: I sign everything, and am on my way out when they carelessly say, almost apathetically, “Oh, yeah, if you win you’ll be fighting for a title.”
I’m sitting in the dressing room before the fight thinking, “Damn it, why the hell did they have to tell me about the title shot? “
ESB: (laughing) In other words they found another way to pile on the pressure?
Yuri Foreman: Yup. They threw on another piece of baggage, hit the mule on the side, and said, “good luck buddy.”
ESB: I think many people were pleased with the way your promoter “Top Rank” organized and handled the show. Do you agree?
Yuri Foreman: Yes, they did it very professionally as usual. Top Rank has been doing this for a long time and I think everybody saw just how much such experience can add to an important event like this.
ESB: This week you and Leyla are flying to Texas for the premier of her Documentary “ Golden Gloves.” What role did you play in the filming?
Yuri Foreman: Basically, I was the production assistant, and was responsible for all the equipment. Took it apart, put it together, and lugged it around wherever the director, who’s name was Leyla, said it needed to go. All joking aside, though, she had to do a lot on her own so I tried to help how and where I could.
ESB: Besides that what else are you doing?
Yuri Foreman: On Wednesdays, I go to Crown Heights and teach a group of teens, who have gone off the moral road so to speak, how to fight. My rabbi suggested it, and I share his opinion, that it’s my duty to do this, because as a boxer, for many young kids, I’m a person who is doing something they probably respect. I think I should take advantage of that and help these guys get back on the right path.
ESB: You are personally acquainted with three of the four current champions at heavyweight, and probably saw them in the gym more then once. Between Ruslan, Sultan, and Oleg, who do you think is the strongest?
Yuri Foreman: You know, out of all of them besides Wladimir, about whom I know about as much as you, I think Maskaev has reached the peak of his potential. Sultan is younger and on the rise, and very soon may overtake Oleg, but if the fight happened right now, I would give the nod to Oleg due to experience. In time, of course, I think Sultan will be better. He is younger, and more importantly, more mobile, but experience is still on Oleg’s side if we are talking about the type of character they have now.
I forgot about Ruslan completely. I was sitting there today and thinking, “Who is the fourth champion now?” Started listing them to myself, Sultan, Klitschko, Oleg and who else? Poor Ruslan is almost invisible. Just went home and that’s all. I think he is very similar to Sultan: also young, mobile, similar style. I don’t know, right now, I think Oleg is a bit stronger then the rest.
ESB: Now a question about politics. Last week Shimon Peretz was elected as the new president of Israel. How do you react to that?
Yuri Foreman: I think people have to understand that the post of president in Israel is very insignificant. The Israeli president differs greatly from the presidents of America and Russia, because the power he wields is very trivial. Right now there are a lot of scandals in politics there, so maybe in the public sphere Peretz can help, because he is greatly respected by many people.
I think the bigger problem right now is, in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has taken over all sections, and Israel’s flank is exposed to a tiny organization, the main goal of which is to destroy Israel. Terrorists, suicide bombers and all. I have to add that it’s possible that it can help isolate Hamas, and justify the reaction Israel has to any terrorist act or provocation.
Peretz is already an old man, and it is possible that even if he doesn’t do anything officially, behind closed doors he can impose some influence, and rid the parliament of the dirt that has piled up. Rid the country of the criminals who steal from the people and help push through their close relatives to comfortable government positions.
If he can do that then I have to bow my head and give him his due.
ESB: Anything to say to all our readers?
Yuri Foreman: I would like to wish Vasili (Vasili Jirov-author’s note) luck in his upcoming bout in July and say that from the bottom of my heart I will be cheering for him. He is a very interesting personality, and a guy who never ceases to amaze. He always has new and captivating interests and just in general is a simple and good guy.
He and Borat should get together, cause that will be an interesting combination (laughing). I was to camp with him once, and we went to play pool, and he dressed so classy, combed his hair, nice sweater, shirt, just a pleasant looking image all around. Besides seeing that I also witnessed his training sessions. He is pushed like a friggin’ mountain goat and the atmosphere is absolutely deadly. I tried to run with him, and while I was keeping up, it was just barely.
Once in a while, I still remember how in 96, I was sitting in front of my TV in Israel, looking at his Olympic bouts and thinking, “wow, to be a fighter like that one day wouldn’t be bad at all.” I still find it hard to believe that we are friends.
I don’t know what is up with his career, delays, problems, but I wish him success, fame and that he earns the type of money he realistically deserves. He went through the necessary school of hard knocks to earn it.
Secondly, yea, my last fight was partly my fault, but also it wasn’t only all my fault, and I hope that people don’t judge me just by it in regards to what I can do. I don’t ask people to love me, just maybe favor me a little bit (laughing), and hopefully my next fight, relative to this one will be a shadow, and everyone, without exception, will like it.
ESB: Yuri, as always, we wish you luck and success in the future.
ESB: Hey, Leyla, congrats on Yuri’s win. During the broadcast, Larry mentioned how you’re his biggest critic. Did he get it worse from you then us writers and journalists?
Leyla Leidecker: Well, no, and lately I try to sugarcoat it a bit because Yuri is sensitive about it.
ESB: Did you get to speak to Larry or Jim before or after the bout? Any opinion on them?
Leyla Leidecker: No, I didn’t meet them, but I do think they are very professional and good at doing their job. However, lately, Larry seems to be content with fights only when somebody is on the verge of getting permanently brain damaged.
ESB: Alright, on a more serious note though did you like the way Mr. Arum and Top Rank organized and promoted the event?
Leyla Leidecker: I think they did a good job.
ESB: What did you think of the Cotto vs. Judah main event?
Leyla Leidecker: It was definitely a great fight, but I have to say I don’t think Zab belongs in the Welterweight division.
What really freaked me out, however, was that his family brought his baby daughters to the arena. I was sitting next to his family and there were these 3-6 year old, super-sweet girls, who came to the arena with handmade signs saying something like “Go Daddy,” and were clapping and cheering for their father. Obviously, as the fight wore on they started to cry, and it was a terribly sad thing to see. I don’t think boxing is for little children.
ESB: Last year, you were still in the process of working on your movie, “Golden Gloves,” and now besides Yuri’s win you can celebrate the premier in San Antonio next week. What sort of challenges did you face in completing it?
Leyla Leidecker: Well, it won’t be the premier, but it will be one of the first few times the film will be shown publicly.
The biggest challenge in making an indy’ film is getting the necessary funds. Thankfully, I did receive a few grants from the NYSCA, the Open Meadows Foundation, and Women in Film, so in the end I got the job done, but it would have been completed much faster if I didn’t start with no money at all.
ESB: Well then can you talk a little about the process of making a film from scratch? In other words, what steps can somebody in the same position take if they want to accomplish a similar task?
Leyla Leidecker: I know it may sound a bit clichéd if I say that America is the land of opportunity but I can’t ignore the fact that it’s true. At first, I wanted to study film-making but any place I looked into it cost about twenty grand a semester.
Then I found a place called “DCTV” where they allowed me to intern for two days a week in exchange for attending classes for free, as well as using their film equipment for free. So that is how I got started with the film.
ESB: What do you know, or can tell us about the San Antonio Film Festival?
Leyla Leidecker: Based on what I understand, it is one of the “fun” film festivals in this country. Plus, we’ve never been to Texas so it should be an interesting experience.
ESB: Any word regarding it being shown on television?
Leyla Leidecker: No concrete information yet.
ESB: If it won’t get picked up right away do you want to put it on say DVD or video?
Leyla Leidecker: Well the most optimal option for me would be to have it shown on TV, in order to reach a wider audience of people, however, putting it on DVD would be good, too.
ESB: Can you remind us what the film is about again?
Leyla Leidecker: The women’s side of the Golden Gloves and amateur women’s boxing. I know it’s a sensitive issue on eastsideboxing, but nobody is forced to like it or watch. The real problem is there are no equal opportunities for female amateur fighters. I don’t think anybody should be turned down because of gender. Most physically demanding sports in the Olympics are co-ed, like Weight-Lifting, Wrestling, but not boxing. That decision can be argued, but that’s the reason the US boxing system is not financially supporting women’s amateur boxing the same as men’s.
Basically, there is no stipend for nationally ranked women. To go to the US Nationals, women have to buy their own plane ticket, book their own hotel room, while men have it all paid for free. In the end of my film, a young Puerto Rican woman, named Melissa Hernandez, cannot go to the Nationals just because she doesn’t have the money. If she were a guy, that would not be the case.
ESB: Leyla thanks for your time and I hope your film gets a good reception. Any decisions regarding your own career?
Leyla Leidecker: Thanks. After six bouts I think I’m done. Plus, there are many other things that I want to dedicate myself to accomplishing. Boxing takes a lot of time and a lot of mental, and physical energy, and as a female, there is very little reward.
I want to thank Yuri and Leyla for their time as well as once again point to both Yuri’s official website: www.yuriforeman.com and Leyla’s movie site: www.goldenglovesmovie.com/ for more information regarding both them, the film, as well as provide another nice, and cheap endorsement.
The film will be shown on the 22nd of June, so if you live in the area and have zip to do that day check it out and maybe meet Yuri and Leyla face to face.