An Orthodox Jew who refuses to fight on Shabbat, Salita was the 2000 U.S. junior-welterweight (139 pounds) under-19 champion before turning professional. A top young prospect, the Ukrainian immigrant -- now a full-fledged American fighting out of NY -- has compiled an undefeated pro record of 24-0-1 (14 KOs) as of March 2006. The draw was in his most recent bout when Salita, a Hasidic Jew whose nickname is "The Star of David," rallied from a pair of knockdowns to fight Ramon Montano to a draw on the undercard of the Hasim Rahman-James Toney WBC heavyweight championship on March 18, 2006. Salita was described by trainer Jimmy O'Pharrow as a "scientific fighter, with great boxing skills. Kid looks Russian, prays Jewish and fights black."
For Dmitriy, however, it is the Jewish part that is most important. In an article in The Forward, Salita reflected that "I didn't know what being a Jew meant back in the Soviet Union. I didn't understand because we weren't allowed to be Jews there. But getting closer to Judaism, finding spiritualness, has helped me...boxing has helped me become more religious. It's a very spiritual sport. When you're sparring in the gym, no one can help you. Only God can help you."
Salita's first televised bout against Ron Gladden (November 2002) almost did not take place. Promoted by Bob Arum, the fight was scheduled for 7:00pm in Las Vegas and Dmitriy informed Arum he would not fight on Shabbat. Arum went to a rabbi, who told Salita that because sundown was at 5:15pm, he could take part in the match. Dmitriy battered his opponent from the opening bell, and won on a first-round knockout.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 4, 1982
Born in Russia, Salita emigrated to the United States at the age of nine and settled in Brooklyn with his family. He began kickboxing, but gradually gravitated towards boxing and announced to his parents that he would become a world champion. Like many earlier Jewish immigrant families, Dmitriy's mother was less than impressed, and told him, "No, that is not the thing to do...Are you doing this because your father and I are not giving you enough attention? You should become a doctor or a lawyer." Salita could not be dissuaded, however, and continued his boxing career in his teen-age years.
By the late 1990s, Dmitriy was one of the best amateur prospects in the New York City area. In 1999, he reached the finals of the U.S. under-19 championships (junior-welterweight), but lost a decision to Jose Celaya. The following year, Salita reached the finals again, but this time, he risked disqualification because of his religious beliefs. An observant Jew who refuses to work on Shabbat, when Salita found out that the final of the 2000 U.S. championships would be held on Saturday, he informed the organizers that he would not fight until after sundown. The bout was switched to the end of the schedule, well after nightfall, and Salita won the title bout in a decision over Ray Sanchez III.
Although his religious convictions may set him apart from most young boxers, there is no denying Dmitriy's talent. Promoter Bob Arum was told of Salita by a friend, Rabbi Shea Harlig, and came away from a meeting pleasantly surprised. He signed the young boxer to a contract with his company, Top Rank, with an agreement that Dmitriy would not fight on Shabbat or Jewish holidays. Arum said of Salita, "If he's as good as it appears he is, and he can be held up as an example of religious devotion to both Jews and gentiles, he'll be a great attraction."
In 2001, Salita turned professional after winning the New York Golden Gloves title at 139 pounds (he was awarded the Sugar Ray Robinson award as the outstanding boxer in the tournament). Salita has remained committed to his beliefs. In July 2002, Dmitriy turned down an opportunity to fight a bout on HBO because it fell on Tisha B'Av.
Boxing historian Hank Kaplan said, "Salita's a sensational prospect. The kid has a lot of ingredients that it takes to make a great fighter. He's a boxing stylist and a thinking fighter. If he also has the determination, and I think he does, he could go all the way." Salita hopes to become a world champion and revive the tradition of great Jewish fighters. Dmitriy remarked, "...you know, boxing used to be a Jewish sport. Back in the day when Jews were fighters, they were immigrants. Boxing was a way for them to make it from the bottom of society to the top of society. The tradition just got lost."
5'9", 144 pounds