Hype couldn't help Foreman in ring

NEW YORK -- Three days before the Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman clash at Yankee Stadium, we asked Foreman whether it was possible that the media had hyped the rabbi-in-training angle to kingdom come, whether he considered that maybe his superlative backstory was making pundits overlook the fact that his résumé wasn't sterling.

So many fight writers and fans were picking the WBA 154-pound champion to upset three-time titlist Miguel Cotto -- whose résumé was beyond reproach -- that the Puerto Rican was no longer the favorite in the court of public opinion.

Foreman answered: We'll see Saturday night.

We did, indeed. And the résumé theory held true.

Foreman, 29, fought a better grade of athlete than he had previously, maybe two steps better. Team Foreman, like seemingly everyone else, gave Cotto the Mark Twain treatment heading into the tussle, exaggerating his demise. But we saw from Minute 1 that Cotto's legs were bouncy, he held the weight at 154 well and his punches had snap.

Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. saw enough 40 seconds into the ninth round, as a left hook to the body shifted Foreman's internal organs to an excruciating degree.

This was no Daniel Santos, from whom Foreman had wrested the WBA title in November. Even if wars with Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao have sapped some vitality from Cotto, he's still a formidable pugilist in the pound-for-pound top 15.

Cotto, 29, rises to 35-2, while Foreman is 28-1.

Boxing held up to its rep as the theater of the unexpected when Foreman's trainer, Joe Grier, threw in the towel in the eighth, sensing that his fighter's right knee was in bad shape after he'd slipped on the wet canvas. But Mercante disregarded the towel, believing that Foreman was in decent shape to continue, and said after that he didn't know who had thrown the white flag of surrender.

"It was a lot of pain, it was very sharp," Foreman said of his balky knee. "I didn't want it to stop; I wanted it to continue. I'm a world champion, now a former world champion. I'm not just quitting. We need to fight."

Foreman will get his knee checked out, thinking there might be ligament damage. He said he had a similar injury while growing up in Israel but didn't have health insurance, so he never had it diagnosed correctly.

Promoter Bob Arum said that if the injury is bad, Foreman will need to rehab the knee and come back against sub-Cotto-level competition.

With the loss, Foreman's cred doesn't dip that much. He showed grit while fighting on a bum knee, and he started to trade with Cotto when the Puerto Rican's power shots sapped his ability to keep up the constant movement. From the opening bell, Cotto's power edge stood out. His jab buzzed the Brooklynite, and his counter left hooks had Foreman fighting to keep his equilibrium several times.

Foreman's best round was the fourth; he appeared to be getting his range. But although he made Cotto miss, he didn't make the now-four-time-titlist pay. Foreman's movement was too often without purpose. His jab needed to be an offensive weapon, as the rest of his arsenal won't make anyone cringe in fear -- let alone Cotto, who's faced men with chain saws for fists and kept coming forward.

After the delay for the "mystery towel" incident, Cotto finished the job with a left hook to the body. The loser -- who said after, "Thank God for keeping us both healthy, more or less," winning points for perspective -- needed to be busier to convince the judges that his brand of boxing was better. But it was Cotto who had the volume edge, 115-329 to 71-281, and no judge had Foreman winning more than two rounds.

Foreman can take solace in the knowledge that he is not likely to hear the "Yuri Boreman" slam in the near future, seeing as how he stood in the pocket late in the game and was in it to win it. And he will forever be associated with the strange scenario at the stadium, Towelgate in the Bronx; there was nothing boring in that bizarre eighth-round interlude.

Michael Woods is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com and ESPN The Magazine and editor of TheSweetScience.com.

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