NEW YORK -- Yuri Foreman has one of the most engaging back stories in boxing, an aspiring rabbi from the former Soviet Union who came to the United States, took low-paying jobs and toiled in obscurity, then burst onto the public consciousness as a world champion.
It's a road that has carried Foreman to "Jimmy Kimmel Live", spawned countless exposes, and will culminate Saturday night at Yankee Stadium. The unassuming 29-year-old will make his initial title defense against Miguel Cotto, the revered former champion and pride of Puerto Rico, in the first fight at the Yankees' home ballpark in more than three decades.
It's a chance for Foreman to prove he's more than just a compelling story. He can firmly establish himself as a fighter, one who just happens to study the Torah and observe Shabbat.
"I think that it's the right time for a big fight," he said simply.
Foreman may be undefeated, but he's never faced a marquee opponent like Cotto, especially not on a stage like this. The Bronx will be lit up for the first fight at Yankee Stadium since Muhammad Ali defeated Ken Norton on Sept. 28, 1976, at the old ballpark across 161st Street.
In many ways it's a throwback fight to the 1920s and '30s, when some of the biggest bouts were waged in ballparks. It was common then for fans to divide themselves along ethnic lines, and the expected crowd of about 25,000 on Saturday night should reflect that -- some waving Israeli flags for Foreman, others waving Puerto Rican flags for Cotto.
"Everybody is thrilled with this hook of the new building, the New York Yankees and the return of boxing," said Bob Arum, who also promoted the Ali-Norton fight.
"On top of that you have this incredible Yuri Foreman story that's not just unique in boxing, it's unique in sports, and it's capturing the attention."
The fight will be the first sporting event besides baseball at the new Yankee Stadium since it opened last spring, although the configuration will be different from fights at the old place.
Instead of putting the ring on the infield, it will be positioned in right-center field and surrounded by about 10,000 seats. The rest of the fans will fill in the outfield bleachers and occupy seats in the right-field corner and extending down the first base line. An enormous canopy will cover the ring and first few rows of fans, held up by temporary scaffolding.
Stadium crews have been working at a frenetic pace to get everything ready, beginning almost immediately after the Yankees wrapped up a homestand Thursday afternoon against Baltimore.
"The building is built for this, you can't shy away," team executive Lonn Trost said. "Think about it. Anyone who realizes the significance of attending the first fight in this facility, and having a ticket to that first fight, that's historical."
The main event will not begin until about 11:15 p.m., two hours after sundown. In accordance with his Jewish faith, Foreman is not allowed to ride in motorized vehicles on the sabbath.
Only then will Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs) leave his Manhattan hotel room, hop inside a waiting car and follow a police escort over the East River and into the Bronx. He'll arrive at the ballpark in time to have his hands wrapped, warm up with trainer Joe Grier, then make the long walk toward the ring as a man sounds the shofar, a horn used for Jewish religious purposes.
Awaiting him will be Cotto, a three-time champion moving to 154 pounds for the first time.
The 29-year-old has sold more tickets to fights in New York over the past decade than any other boxer, usually headlining at Madison Square Garden on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade. His notable wins include former champs Paulie Malignaggi, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley.
As important as the night is for Foreman, though, it may be even more crucial for Cotto.
He hasn't had a signature victory since defeating Mosley nearly three years ago, and a savage loss to Antonio Margarito in 2008 and his brutal defeat at the hands of pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao last fall have many wondering whether Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) still has it.
Both appeared to be in excellent shape at the weigh-in Friday, where hundreds of fans filled the Great Hall at the ballpark to see them step on the scale. Cotto carried the overwhelming support, with people chanting his name from the moment he stepped on the stage.
"We trained pretty good for this fight," Cotto said. "We came with a new mind for this fight, and we're just waiting for the night of the fight to see what Yuri can bring, and I'm more than 100 percent sure we'll be the new WBA champion."