Foreman leaves the gym and takes the subway to the synagogue. Unlike at Gleason’s, where he’s a hero recognized by all, he is just another anonymous New Yorker on the subway and on the Brooklyn streets. He enters the synagogue, a long, low two-story building whose exterior is painted a sickly shade of light green, and goes upstairs in search of his quarry: Diego, a fat gray cat who has made his home in the synagogue and is tolerated because he is good at catching mice. Foreman picks up the cat, gently strokes it for a few minutes, makes sure that the creature has enough food and water, and leaves.
“My cat mitzvah,” he says.
Foreman’s boxing future is uncertain. He has to defend his title early this year, and he and his manager, Murray Wilson, would like to have him fight a big name—perhaps even Manny Pacquaio, widely regarded as the best fighter in the world today, pound for pound. “Yuri is now at the point where he can make some serious money,” Wilson says. “Why not fight Pacquiao? Even if we lose, we win.”
Promoter Bob Arum, whose Las Vegas firm, Top Rank, staged the Pacquiao-Cotto fight and Foreman’s fight with Santos—Foreman calls the Jewish Arum “my other rabbi”—also is looking ahead to a Foreman-Pacquiao match. “Down the road, that probably will be Foreman’s big fight,” Arum says. “If he’s still champion by the end of the year, it’s a real possibility for early 2011….I’ve talked with Pacquiao about it, and he’s interested.” But ESPN’s Bert Sugar is not so sure that’s a good idea. “Yuri is an excellent mechanic, very fast,” he says. “But I don’t think he has the potential to beat Pacquiao; he’s not a knockout puncher.”
The larger looming question is what Foreman will do later, after he becomes a rabbi. He says he hopes to continue boxing. Bruce Silverglade, the Gleason’s Gym owner is protective of his famous boxer. “My dream is for him to fight a couple of times in 2010, and in 2011 have a big fight with someone like Pacquiao, make several million dollars and retire. He’ll have nothing else to prove. For him to stay in the ring, maybe get hurt, it’s not worth it,” Silverglade says. “For him to become a rabbi would be a big boost for Jews around the world. When young kids see a rabbi with a long white beard, they can’t relate. But a nice, good-looking fellow like Yuri, he’d be a role model. Maybe they’d say, ‘I want to go to the synagogue, too.’”
Focused as usual on the here and now, Foreman is noncommittal about the future. He agrees that he can be a role model. “Growing up in Israel, there are so many kids like me, they just don’t know,” he muses. “When I become a rabbi, I can go back as a rabbi and bring them closer to their Jewish faith.”
But then he hesitates. “I don’t know what it will be in two years,” the future rabbi says. “You know the Jewish saying: You make plans, and God laughs.” And he laughs, too.
Boris Weintraub is a former senior writer at National Geographic and an associate editor at Moment.