Boxing: Still-undefeated Salita looks ahead

"The belt is next, baby. I can't wait," says the #1 WBA Junior Welterweight title contender Dmitriy Salita.

Dmitriy Salita jewish boxer 248 88 (photo credit: )
Dmitriy Salita jewish boxer 248 88
(photo credit: )
Back home in Brooklyn after his dominant 10-round shutout victory over Raul "El Toro" Munoz on Sunday night in Las Vegas, Dmitriy Salita sounds happy... and hungrier than ever. "The belt is next, baby. I can't wait," the Star of David gushed to The Jerusalem Post over the phone, with his ear-to-ear smile and buoyant tone practically jumping through the headset. "It seems like quite a few of my fights have come just before Jewish holidays. "I have won them all," sneaks in the #1 WBA Junior Welterweight title contender, who will next face the winner of the June 27 bout between WBA world champion Andreas Kotelnik and Amir Khan, in what will be Salita's first-ever title fight. "Now I can go into Shavuot totally happy and content, without having to think about boxing for a couple of days." Sunday's triumph in Vegas brought Salita's record to an unbelievable 30-0-1, with 16 TKOs. Although he did not knock out Munoz, who actually came into the fight almost 10 pounds heavier than he was supposed to, Salita was in total control of the match and was the overwhelming decision on all of the judge's cards, remarkably emerging as the victor in all 10 rounds. "It was a good day at the office," quipped the Orthodox Jewish (and Chabad Lubavitch) boxer. "He came in a few pounds heavier than me, and was the heaviest opponent I ever faced, which made him much more durable and able to absorb my punches. "Nonetheless, I had him really hurt quite a few times." Some of the ring-side accounts of the bout probably sound as if they were taken right out of Salita's childhood daydreams. "Salita wobbled Munoz with a barrage of power shots. An uppercut flush under the chin awakened a startled Munoz who somehow found his way back to the middle of the ring," noted distinguished boxing reporter Albert Howell. "Skill-wise, I was very focused," explains Salita. "I trained extremely well for this fight and had the opportunity to implement a number of techniques and strategies I had been practicing." Asked who he prefers to face for the WBA world champion's belt, a fight that will likely take place in October or November against either Kotelnik or Khan, Salita responds as what any true up-and-coming champ would. "May the best man win the fight between those two, but I just want to have the belt around my waist. I don't care who it comes against." Salita understands that regardless of who he faces, "it will definitely be the biggest fight of my career to this point, as well as a monumental step in my professional life. Belts are what it is all about for a boxer. Once I am a title-holder, my opponents will have to challenge me, and I will have more control of who I face." Exclaims Salita: "I want the big fights. I will go up against anyone. I would love to fight [Manny] Pacquiao," who is being bandied about as possibly the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world these days. "However, realistically unless I have a belt, there is no way he would agree to fight me." One of the knocks on Salita is that his opponents haven't been big-names or highly-touted contenders. However, as he sees it, that is only half the story. "There have been so many prospects groomed to be the next Michael Jordan of boxing and they inevitably lose to a guy that they were supposed to beat. It isn't enough just to have the talent. It's incredibly hard to keep motivated and consistent, and I have managed to do that for more than 10 years and over the course of more than 30 fights. "Critics are always a part of the world, especially a part of the sports world, but I just focus on keeping myself sharp and never having a lapse. Now, finally, I have the world title opportunity I've been waiting so long for." Looking at the arch of Salita's career, one immediately realizes that with him being undefeated in 31 professional fights, it has been quite a long time since he has lost in the ring. "I was 17 years old," recalls the now 27-year-old veteran. "I remember it and I never want it to happen again." Like an ace pitcher evoking the memory of the one hit that broke up his perfect game, Salita can visualize the moment all too well. "It was a split decision in the finals of the Golden Gloves tournament in 2000. It was just around the time I was graduating high school and starting to become observant. The finals were on a Friday night and, at that point, I was still fighting on Shabbat. It was one of my last times doing so. "A few months later, I was picked by the US Junior Olympic team and I was able to arrange my medal match to be rescheduled from Saturday at 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., and that's what I continued doing from that point on. "I haven't lost since."