NEWYORK - Although victorious in both fights, the top two Jewish boxers in the world had tougher than expected fights this weekend.
On Thursday night at the Manhattan Center in New York City, Orthodox Russian-Jewish sensation Dmitriy "The Star of David" Salita found it hard to extinguish "Red Hot" Robert Frankel early on in the fight. But nonetheless Salita found his rhythm and was awarded a unanimous decision by judges.
And at the Bracknell Leisure Centre in Berkshire, England, top Israeli heavyweight prospect Roman "The Haifa Hitman" Greenberg didn't give the "Comeback Kid" Kendrick Releford any chance for redemption, even after a difficult first round, and nullified Releford in a 98-92 decision.
Both fighters remain undefeated - Salita with a 24-0 with 14 KOs and Greenberg 21-0 also with 14 KOs.
After the fight, Salita's locker room was not in the usual joyful mood that it had been after the Russian's previous victories.
Salita's manager, trainer, family members, friends and even Salita himself seemed in shock after a much harder than expected fight with Frankel.
"It was a tough fight, one that I did not expect. Personally, I think there was too much next fight talk," Salita told The Jerusalem Post.
He was referring to the fact that this fight was expected to be an easy victory for him and that before the fight most members of the press were discussing his next fight, which would presumably be against a higher ranked fighter than Frankel.
Salita's manager Israel Lieberow said about Frankel, "We knew he threw lots of punches and doesn't fall down. But he was much tougher and skilled than expected. We definitely didn't expect him to go the distance."
The fight started out tough for Salita. For the first time in many matches, he was knocked to the canvas in the first round and it appeared that Frankel was in control of the fight.
Lieberow commented, "The first round threw Dmitriy off. You could tell he was nervous after he was caught with that punch."
Rounds two to five were very close. On several occasions, Frankel had Salita up against the ropes and it looked as if Salita was in trouble, especially after a hard sharp right he sustained in the third round.
Salita explained his strategy as such, "I didn't want to rush inside. I didn't want to take the chance because I noticed he liked to head butt.
"After a few rounds, I went back to boxing and Frankel couldn't keep up."
Responding to cheers of "Dima, Dima, Dima" from a hometown crowd consisting primarily of Orthodox Jews, Salita started to find his rhythm in round six, connecting on three occasions with one-two combinations to the face.
Round seven proved to be Salita's most effective, when he delivered a one-two combination that sent Frankel flying against the ropes.
Both fighters remained strong in rounds eight to ten. The fans were on their feet, as the pugilists passionately threw punches back and forth in the final minute of the fight.
In the end, the judges awarded the fight to Salita in a unanimous decision scored 97-92, 96-93 and 96-93.
Lieberow was satisfied with the victory and stated conclusively, "This is a sign of a true champ, one that after a slow start can come back to win a fight."
The first round also proved to be problematic for heavyweight Greenberg. Kendrick Releford, 23, a native of Texas, clearly came to England to win. Releford opened the fight very strong and was awarded round one.
Greenberg came back and took control of rounds two to six; however, the Israeli appeared overconfident and by round seven, it seemed like he had lost interest in the fight.
In round eight, trainer Jim Evans shouted "You're in with a world class opponent, finish him off."
Greenberg responded with a one-two combination and landed a left hook that left Releford staggering.
Waterman addressed any criticism of the manner in which Greenberg fights, "People have a problem with Roman because he is not a traditional fighter. As such he makes all his opponents look ordinary, and to the casual observer he looks lazy.
"He rises to his opponent's level, and not the other way around. However, time and time again he demonstrates that he is a world class fighter."
After the fight, Releford's manager told Waterman, "The thing that's odd about Roman is he is very awkward to fight. Even though he looks wide open, it's very hard to land a punch."
Waterman said, "He's a gifted athlete, but not an entertainer.
"He doesn't wow you. Only when he faces a top twenty American fighter, will people say that this kid's really got something."
Waterman informed The Jerusalem Post that Greenberg will fight next on March 18 in Monaco, possibly for the WBA or the WBC intercontinental heavyweight title.
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