A Jewish Boxer Among Us
Dmitry Salita is a retired professional boxer who is the first ever shabbat observant boxer to become a world champion. Salita began his professional career in 2001 and quickly made a name for himself in the light welterweight division. Over the years he won many medals, most notably IBF International Titles and the WBF Junior Welterweight World Title. He stopped competing on Shabbat at 18 due to his gradual growth in Judaism. That d
Dmitry Salita, a Ukrainian Orthodox Jew, immigrated to the United States when he was just nine years old. At that time, it was still part of the Soviet Union. Salita has nice childhood memories, stating that Odessa is indeed a beautiful city with a rich culture. However, he does recall attending a Communist school and Jews were feeling uncertainty in terms of their place in society. This was the main reason his family decided to leave the country. They settled in Brooklyn, New York and since they did not know the language or culture, it was a true culture shock for them all. Salita stated: “Shortly after, the challenges overshadowed the initial excitement of moving to New York City.”
Salita said that he was drawn to boxing because he was already used to karate which he practiced at age seven in Odessa. His father thought it would be a good idea since he got picked on at school. Salita’s instructor named Paul Mormando saw a lot of potential in Salita, but recognized he had financial issues. Salita practiced daily in the evenings and eventually started competing and won a few tournaments. The Starteet City Boxing Club had no bathroom, running water, heat, or air conditioning, nevertheless he said: “I did not know it at the time, but it produced some of the best boxers in the world.” As a kid in the Starret City Boxing Club, he grew up with Keysha Snow and that gave him the knowledge of the challenges that he faced. During that time, there was no real industry for women’s’ boxing, and she could not make a living, or get recognition like men did.
Salita’s started to compete at age 13. His first medal was The State Silver Gloves in Rochester, New York and he won a 95 lb. gold medal! He signed his first promotional contract after he won the U.S. Nationals and the NYC Golden Gloves. His first promoter was Bob Arum who is still the number one promoter to this day at age 91. There was a particular fight against Amir Khan, another boxing champion that Salita lost to, but it did not bring him down. He said: “I was undefeated for 10 years. Going into that fight shook me up. It had a significant impact and allowed me to learn many lessons about myself and people around me.”
Salita’s promotional contract ended. He wanted to get back in the ring, but did not feel comfortable signing a new contract, so he decided to open his own promotional company. Among others, he promoted Claressa Shields. Salita saw all the talent that was within her, she was the best female fighter of all time who was already changing the industry. She was the first female boxer to sign a seven-figure deal, the first for female boxing. Today, the industry is more advanced, Salita said that this past fall, he co-promoted his boxers who had the chance to compete at the O2, Wembley in London, Bally’s in Atlantic City, and the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. It was seen on Sky, DAZN and Showtime.
Salita had a documentary made about him. As a result, director Jason Hutt became a lifelong friend of Salita’s. The documentary covers everything, from when he first started, to meeting the President at the White House in Washington D.C. Salita excitedly said: “I am so grateful that he recorded over 200 hours and was able summarize it into an
‘Orthodox Stance.’ “
Salita’s career serves as a reminder that anything is possible with hard work, dedication and the determination to succeed. He has made a great impact on the Jewish community, by showing that one can be a warrior and a tough guy while still holding onto their cultural and religious values. Salita’s career is not only an inspiration to Jewish athletes but to anyone who wants to pursue their dreams.
As for his future, Salita hopes to continue the path that he is on. He wants to continue being of service in the boxing industry. He feels that there is always room for improvement as well as giving fans a more in-depth experience.”
RACHEL STERN IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.