A year ago, as a professional boxer on the rise, Dmitriy Salita sought to make modern Jewish history. Fighting for the World Boxing Association’s light-welterweight title, he would have become one of the first Jewish boxing champions since the sport’s Golden Age in the first half of the 20th century. He lost that bout, in barely over a minute, to England’s Amir Khan, three weeks after rabbinical student Yuri Foreman took the WBA’s light-middleweight belt.
Now, as a boxer on the rebound — and as a boxing promoter — Salita had hoped to make modern Jewish history in two ways. A victory over Californian Mike Anchondo in a Dec. 16 fight will give him the welterweight title in the less-prestigious International Boxing Association. And as promoter of the night of boxing in Times Square’s Roseland Ballroom, Salita had sought to feature Jewish boxers in two other bouts on the undercard.
The night is titled “Destiny.” “Winning a title is my destiny,” says Salita, a Ukrainian-born resident of Brooklyn.
No boxing card has included Jewish fighters in three matches for at least 60 years, says Salita, 28, a self-taught historian of the sport.
He won’t make history as a promoter. This time.
One of the night’s planned Jewish boxers, middleweight Boyd Melson, a Brooklyn-born pugilist who has won collegiate and military titles, was injured in a recent bout, and had to drop out of the Dec. 16 card. Which leaves Salita, and Israeli Eilon Kedem, a super bantamweight.
A pair of Jewish pro boxers have appeared a few times on the same card in recent decades, Salita says. He says he booked the Jewish fighters to promote their careers and the current resurgence of Jewish boxing.
Kedem, Salita says, is among a crop of young boxers from Israel, most of whom learned the sport in the army.
Salita, who will enter the ring Dec. 16 to the singing of reggae star Matisyahu, says part of the fight’s proceeds will be donated to the Chabad Children of Chernobyl project, and to a youth center in Brighton Beach that bears his name. His work with the émigré community earned him a nomination as a finalist in this year’s Jewish Federations of North America Jewish Community Heroes competition.
He says his defeat last year motivated him to keep fighting for a title. “I knew I was better than that.”