Boxing: Salita TKOs late stand-in

After his opponent was arrested a day before the scheduled match, Dmitriy Salita beat replacement Shad Howard at 1:42 of the 6th round.

boxing 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
boxing 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
You can't make this stuff up. After his original opponent was arrested one day before the scheduled match, Dmitriy Salita beat the last-minute replacement, Shad Howard, at 1:42 of the sixth round - only an hour after Howard arrived at the Manhattan Center in New York as a result of his flight being delayed. "It was hard psychologically," Salita said. "The fight is on, the fight is off, the fight is on again…You just have to stay focused." James Wayka, from Minnesota, was scheduled for his first fight ever in New York in the 10-round main event against the "Star of David," only to be arrested on Wednesday for nonpayment of child support, according to the fight's promoters. His replacement, Howard, would not arrive at the Manhattan Center until after 11 p.m., roughly an hour before his match with Salita. When the main event finally began, Salita was ushered into the ring without any music. He told The Jerusalem Post that he did not want to enter the ring to music in order to show respect for the three weeks leading up to Tisha Be'av, a fast day for the Jews to commemorate the destruction of their Temples by the Babylonians and Romans. Salita opened the match aggressively, responding to his critics' most common complaint, highlighted by a solid right-left combo to Howard's head. The New York crowd got behind Salita, chanting "Dima" repeatedly. The third and fourth rounds were much of the same, as Salita took command of the bout and continued to box on the offensive. The bell at the end of the third round may have saved Howard, who was reeling and visibly shaken from Salita's punishing blows to his torso and ribs. In the fourth round, however, Howard landed two left jabs to Salita's face. The Ukraninan-born Salita would lose a point in the round and receive a warning from the referee after hitting Howard below the belt. "I was concerned after I had a point taken from me," Salita would say after the match. "I tried to use the side more." Salita continued to pound low in the fifth round, and at one point had Howard against the ropes, landing a series of jabs against his ribs. In the sixth, Salita cut Howard's ear on a punch to the head, prompting the replacement's trainer to throw in the towel. With the TKO, Salita improved to 25-0-1. "I'm satisfied that I got the win," he said. "I still have things to work on." To really improve, Salita will need to fight a worthy opponent in his next bout scheduled for September 20. Apparently, Salita had turned down higher quality replacements, before settling on Howard, who had been knocked out in the first round of his previous fight. To Salita's credit, the circumstances surrounding the fight were out of his control. Further, Wayka, the original opponent, lost two of his three previous matches, not giving much weight to the notion that Salita would be boxing a legitimately strong opponent. Although it does happen, last-minute cancellations for main event bouts do not occur frequently.