NEW YORK — A few hundred fans turned out for Yuri Foreman’s comeback fight Wednesday at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square, a six-round, unanimous-decision win over someone named Brandon Baue that amounted to little more than a workout for a former champion easing back into boxing after 22 months away.
The turnout was a far cry from the more than 20,000 that flocked to Yankee Stadium the last time Foreman fought in New York in June 2010. That night, Foreman — then undefeated and the WBA junior welterweight champion — lost his title to Miguel Cotto after suffering a knee injury that would require major reconstructive surgery.
A native of Belarus who relocated to Park Slope several years ago, Foreman brought a lot to that promotion. He was an undefeated titleholder with a fascinating second life — he’s an Orthodox rabbi-in-training — who was said to be the first Jewish world champion since the 1930s. Foreman’s unique backstory helped make the Yankee Stadium fight HBO’s highest-rated non-pay-per-view event of 2010.
Yet a hasty return from ACL surgery contributed to a demoralizing sixth-round stoppage loss to Pawel Wolak in March 2011. (That a heavy-handed swarmer like Wolak was chosen for Foreman’s first opponent after a major knee procedure speaks to matchmaking that can only be described as negligent.) Foreman then retired — or at least thought awfully hard about it. Either way, he’d been out of the ring for nearly two years until Wednesday’s fight.
Foreman entered the ring in black trunks with gold lettering — and, notably, no knee brace. By his side was Joe Grier, the longtime trainer with whom he’d split and since reunited. Elusive as always, he pawed his way through the first three rounds against a limited opponent, picking up the pace marginally in the later rounds, occasionally putting combinations of punches together. Baue landed shots but never came close to winning a round.
“More nervous than usual,” Foreman said of his return. “I was just happy to shed some of the rust and get some rounds in.”
All three judges scored it 60-54, lifting Foreman’s pro ledger to 29 wins in 31 fights. Afterward, Foreman discussed his recent signing with Lou DiBella, who promoted Wednesday’s show. When current 154-pound titleholders Austin Trout and Canelo Alvarez were brought up, Foreman seemed enthused about the prospect of facing them within the next two years.
Yet Wednesday’s first step served only one practical purpose — eradicating the specter of injury — and to that end it was a success.
“The knee is out of my head,” he said.
–Bryan Armen Graham