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Foreman-Cotto set for Yankee Stadium date

NEW YORK - There is a familiar saying that speaks to the art of successfully peddling a possibly defective product: "If you can't sell the steak, sell the sizzle."

NEW YORK - There is a familiar saying that speaks to the art of successfully peddling a possibly defective product: "If you can't sell the steak, sell the sizzle."

The history of boxing is rife with tales of fighters who might not have brought much meat to their professional endeavors, but there was some curious or controversial aspect of their lives that enabled promoters to squeeze out all the sizzle possible. And the sales pitch grows louder when there is some element of conflict to lure paying customers.

On various nights, the conflict has been presented as black vs. white, young vs. old, perceived good guy vs. perceived bad guy, one nationality vs. another. It became a Philadelphia tradition for local guys from different neighborhoods to duke it out for municipal bragging rights. But it has been years - no, make that decades - since a story line has been so rich with possibilities as is tomorrow night's HBO-televised defense by WBA super welterweight champion Yuri Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs) against three-time former world titlist Miguel Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) in the first boxing match to be held in the new (well, since 2009), $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium.

Cotto, a Puerto Rican national hero who has made appearances in near proximity to the Puerto Rican Day Parade almost an annual occurrence, will be fighting before a large, enthusiastic group of supporters in New York for the seventh time. It will be interesting to see how much the 29-year-old banger has left after going 2-2 in his last four bouts, including beatdowns by Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao.

"Any time a fighter has some very rough fights, you are concerned with the physical damage as well as mental damage," said Cotto's recently hired trainer, Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward. "Some guys, their coordination and reflexes are totally shot. I do not see that from Miguel."

But, as intriguing a topic as the state of Cotto's present skill level would normally be, it pales in comparison to the sizzle that has attached itself to Foreman, also 29, whose journey to his sport's centerstage, while potentially brief, has been a long time in the making.

Just try to identify another current Jewish fighter who was born in the former Soviet Union (Belarus); emigrated with his family as a child to Israel, where he learned to box in an Arab gym where the other kids were openly hostile to his presence; won three Israeli national amateur national titles; came in 2000 to Brooklyn, where he won a New York Golden Gloves title; and, as of Nov. 14, when he outpointed Daniel Santos in Las Vegas, became the first Jew to become a world champion since Jackie "Kid" Berg in 1932, or the first to be recognized as such since the great Barney Ross in 1936.

And if all that wasn't enough, Foreman is studying to become a rabbi, was grand marshal of New York's Israeli Day Parade on May 23 and is married to Hungarian-born former model and amateur boxer, Leyla Leidecker, who now is a documentary filmmaker and helped train Hilary Swank for her Academy Award-winning performance in the Best Picture of 2004, "Million Dollar Baby."

Even Foreman's arrival at the fight site will be unique. As an Orthodox Jew, he can't fight or even travel until the Sabbath concludes after sunset on Saturday, which means he'll be rushed from his midtown Manhattan hotel to the Bronx via police escort, with a departure time no earlier than 9:13 p.m.

"We'll have a helicopter following him and cameras on him as he makes his way to Yankee Stadium," HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said. "It should be great television."

Maybe so, but will the TV action be as compelling once the actual punching begins? Although Cotto has never been shy about engaging at close range, Foreman's low knockout ratio is indicative of his penchant for stick-and-move tactics, hence his unofficial nickname of "Yuri Boreman."

Even Foreman's trainer, Joe Grier, admits that the "Lion of Zion" - that's the WBA 154-pound champ's official nickname - is no Bronx Bomber when it comes to getting his man out of there.

Despite his inability or at least hesitancy to deliver the long ball, Foreman's exotic background - along with Cotto's enduring popularity - should ensure a crowd of 30,000 or so in the first boxing match to be held in Yankee Stadium since Muhammad Ali's disputed unanimous decision over Ken Norton in their rubber match of Sept. 28, 1976.

"Cotto and Foreman in Las Vegas is no big deal," said 78-year-old Bob Arum, who promotes both fighters and who staged Ali-Norton III. "It's a fight that belongs in New York." *