Dmitriy Salita Fondly Recalls Gym With No Heat, No AC, No Bathroom
Dmitriy Salita would be at a press conference, as he started out building his promotional brand. I’d see him. Invariably, I’d ask: When you gonna fight again?
As the years passed, his stature in the promotional realm grew, from Brooklyn Boxing, to his shift to Detroit as home base for shows, to his effort in building the Claressa Shields brand. So, I’d ask him about fighting less.
One more time, though. Will you fight again, I asked the 41 year old who had just been inducted into the NY State Boxing Hall of Fame? He paused.. a long one.
“I mean….I’m never gonna fight again… maybe an exhibition or two, but I’m never gonna fight again in a FIGHT fight,” the now full time promoter told me.
Dmitriy Salita is the first Soviet immigrant to make it into the NYSBHOF.
He told me some of the things going through his mind as he received the plaque at the April 30 gala induction in Queens. “Since I was 13, I ate, lived, breathed boxing. All I lived was boxing. In the basement of a parking garage, no windows, one door. No AC, no bathroom, no heat in the winter,” he said, of the Starrett City Boxing Club in East New York. “It truly was the school of hard knocks.
Starrett City Demanded Resilience
The talent that surrounded him, a modestly sized kid from Ukraine, who had a tough acclimation to the States. Shannon Briggs, Danny Jacobs, Luis Collazo, Curtis Stevens, Monte Barrett, Jaidon Codrington, Gary Stark, the Simms’…and Zab Judah, a fellow inductee on April 30. “It was the Kronk Gym of New York City,” Salita said.
He excelled; Golden Gloves wins, including top boxer in 2001. Under 19 national champ, NABA title, WBA international, IBF international, WBF and NY State crown last but not least. “I wanted to be the best,” he said, “as an amateur, as a pro. Then things go down…”
Dmitriy Salita paused, maybe remembering some ups and downs. “It’s a long dragout.” It’s hard and too hard to try and explain the difficulty that is stepping away and staying away from the ring when it’s been a home for you.
“Boxing gives you meaning, goals, then you don’t box, and it’s difficult being useful in society and to yourself. So, now I think a lot less about fighting again.”
Dmitriy Salita Promotions Has Positive Momentum
Salita is looking forward to having his stables’ ace, Claressa Shields, fighting in the main event at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on June 3.
The card will be the first pugilism in that premium building.
NYSBHOF Speech Excerpt
Dmitriy Salita looks back, to when he swallowed his fears and proved to peers that a little Jewish kid from Ukraine had the toughness and talent to keep marching. He gave blood, some tears I’m sure too, to prove something to himself.
“I said in my speech, it takes a village to raise a child,” he continued. “To get to a high level in boxing, it does take a community.”
He saluted his backers and those who stayed with him, wishing him well as he ground on, as a junior welterweight world champion contender.
He saluted the late trainer Hector Roca, who cornered him in most of his pro contests.
In fact, Hector’s family asked him to give the induction speech for the tutor, who also entered the NYS Hall on April 30.
Another inductee: Kathy Collins, a Long Island pro who went 14-2-4 fighting from 1995-2001.
That had Dmitriy Salita thinking about Kisha Snow (below), who went 6-2 from 1998-2001.
“Golden Gloves champ, just before her time,” he said. “I traveled with her to tournaments, very dominant as a pro. What she could have done if she had the opportunity?
“So, when I’m promoting Claressa Shields v Hanna Gabriels on June 3, with all that in mind, I will be grateful and humbled.”
He learned basics of the promotional trade from Top Rank, his first promoter, then Lou Dibella, Square Ring, finally Golden Boy.
“I had a lot of education,” the resident of Michigan continued. “All of these things happen in life to prepare me for this. I truly look forward to waking up every day. I’m excited every day, and yes, sometimes it’s challenging. But I love every step of it, and the process.”
From Food Stamps to Hall Call
It helps that Salita recalls clearly where he came from. Where, and how that felt. Using food stamps, wearing crummy Payless sneakers in a world full of Jordans.
“And now, bringing big time boxing back to Detroit. I like to use a phrase, ‘Only in America.’ I know, it’s not the same as with Don King. But I’m very grateful.
“With hard work and belief in self, things came together. I mean, I met the President three times (two Bush, one Obama). Am I an ‘American Success Story?’ Still working towards that.”
I’m left thinking that credit is due to Dmitriy Salita, but of course. Perseverance is the top trait you want to have, assuming the skills are there, to succeed in that sweet-savage science.
That fire marshals’ delight called Starrett City, where he got instruction in boxing and life from Jimmy O’Pharrow and company, is the crucial context to explain Salita’s success. Seeing Zab Judah go from zero to Bentleys and Mercedes allowed Salita to see what hard work can do. “I thought, ‘If I work hard enough, I can get that too!