Dmitriy Salita has been working for the last several years in making Detroit a pugilistic hot-bed. Or, at least, something approximating that…
Ref Frank Garza has seen the Detroit scene on a high, in a rut, and now…Where is it now? Garza gave his three cents:
“Is Detroit boxing dead? In all honesty it’s not what it once was but it’s far from being dead as most people believe. In my opinion I would say Detroit is limping away on crutches and is in need of some rehab. It has suffered several major setbacks in the last decade, the closing of Fight Night Promotions (Promoter Bill Kozerski), the untimely death of Emanuel Steward, the collapse of the old Kronk Gym building and the inability of the Michigan legislature to pass meaningful regulation,” Garza said.
“To properly speak of Detroit boxing I believe it is only fair to include the entire State of Michigan in the conversation. Fair in the sense that we have had many outstanding boxers and world champions that have come from outside the city limits. Boxers like Stanley Ketchel, the Mayweathers, Kenny Lane, Troy Rowland, Buster Mathis Sr. and Jr., the Byrd family, the Dirrell brothers, Bronco McKart, Ad Wolgast and many more. But today we’re not seeing the numbers of boxers from outside Detroit like we once did and it could be that shows that once occurred in Auburn Hills, Pontiac, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City, Mt. Pleasant, Sault Ste Marie, Lansing, Muskegon and Grand Rapids are now basically non existent.
“Every now and then one of these cities will produce a star. Claressa Shields from Flint is the most recent example. She is very fortunate to have been able to participate in the Olympics, otherwise she may not have had the opportunity to become the superstar champion she is now if she had to rely solely on her local boxing scene when she got into the sport.
“Which now brings us to Detroit. Those boxers like Claressa who look to develop professionally really only had Detroit as their in house source, which relied on a local audience. It’s true that every now and then a major televised fight card would come to Detroit featuring someone the likes of K9 Bundrage, the Dirrells or a promotion that needed a last minute venue but none that I can recall that initiated a follow up appearance of championship boxing. That is until Salita Promotions came onto the Detroit scene,” Garza said.
“Salita Promotions has been instrumental in reviving the boxing scene locally and nationally. Some local naysayers have criticized Salita saying that he has loaded his stable with “Russian” boxers, I see it as that he has enhanced his stable with the addition of foreign talent. Worth noting is that these boxers from the former Soviet Union have relocated to Detroit where they now live and work. They are very instrumental to the boxing community adding a level of competition to native boxers and adding a taste of back home to other immigrants of their homelands that have made Detroit their new home. Also take into consideration that Salita Promotions have hadlocal boxers like, Ja’Rico Quinn, Leon Dawson, Joseph Bonas, Domonique Dolton and James Ballard on his cards not only giving them work but also exposure on the undercards of shows televised nationally on Showtime.
“When the Kronk Gym rose to its prominence in the 80’s it didn’t cause the other gyms to shutdown…
“The effect it brought was the other gyms upping their game. As the Kronk produced contenders and then champions, so did other gyms, most notably, off the top of my head, The Galaxy Gym which gave us James Toney, Bronco McKart and Tom Johnson as some examples. I’m seeing this same effect coming into play and I give credit to Salita Promotions for reviving this atmosphere. Competitive matchmaking has been a strong forte of Salita Promotions and it hasn’t been unusual to see the favored boxer taken to the limits or taken out. This is starting to rub off on some of the other promotions. Aaron Rodriguez, a young matchmaker for other local promotions, has found success this way, saying he aims to test the fighters in his matchmaking. He too believes that Detroit boxing has upped its game and that the resurgence of boxing in nearby Toledo is benefiting from this as well.
“Another thing often overlooked or rarely spoken of is that Salita Promotions..
..in conjunction with Showtime has successfully brought women’s championship boxing to the American audience and the numbers from the Claressa Shields vs. Hanna Gabriels title fight from the Masonic Theater in Detroit support this claim. When Salita Promotions added the Christina Hammer vs. Tori Nelson title fight to this same card he had all four major world sanctioning boxing organizations title belts on the line. As a result Claressa Shields will be facing Christina Hammer for what will be the biggest female world championship title fight ever as they fight to unify the women’s middleweight world title.
“Speaking of this area I’ve always felt that what one promoter does affects the way other promotions are perceived and I’ve seen shows and boxers getting better,” Garza said. “Maybe I’m reading too much in this but I’m seeing Detroit boxing getting better and why is that? The Kronk is open again at a new location. Once again boxers are coming to Detroit to train and importantly I hear more and more of Detroit boxers being called to other training camps.”