The text messages have piled up on Dmitriy Salita’s phone. He hasn’t checked them because they are mostly about the Dec. 18 show that he is promoting in New York. He has to ignore them because he has been training for his own fight. Such is the life of a boxer/promoter.
Salita can’t afford distractions now. Not unless he is ready to become a full-time boxing promoter. And he is not. He has his sights set on becoming a world champion.
In moving toward that goal Salita (35-1-1, 18 KOs) will meet Gabriel Bracero in a 10-round welterweight match at the Aviator Sports and Event Complex in Brooklyn on Saturday night. It is a crossroads match for both men, played out in old-fashioned Brooklyn neighborhood rivalry tradition.
“It’s a throwback fight,” said Lou DiBella, who is co-promoting the show with Salita. “Bracero is a Puerto Rican kid from Sunset Park and all the Latino fans from Brooklyn will be there rooting for him. Dmitriy will have all the Russian, Jewish fans from Brighton Beach there rooting for him. This fight is bigger in Brooklyn than anything that’s gone on there for a while.”
It is a true Brooklyn fight with Salita and Bracero (22-1, 4 KOs) from opposite sides of the borough, and both are keeping their eye on another all-Brooklyn showdown between Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah at the Barclays Center on Dec. 7.
“I think the winner of Paulie and Judah would make a lot of sense for me,” Salita said.
Salita fought on the inaugural boxing show at the Barclays Center, defeating Brandon Hoskins on a six-round unanimous decision last year. He is trying to return there in a more significant fight. As a businessman and a boxer, Salita understands that there is a major boxing revival going on in the borough. That is why he has joined forces with DiBella, who was once his promoter.
“Dmitriy is also a very savvy kid and he’s a smart kid. He’s very astute,” DiBella said. “He’s a businessman in his own right. He understands what fights people will go see.”
Salita sold $50,000 worth of tickets to the first show at the Barclays Center.
But what is driving Salita right now is moving back into world title contention. It took him a long time to get over his loss to Amir Khan for the WBA junior welterweight championship in 2009. Salita traveled to England and fought Khan in Newcastle. When he arrived, Salita thought he would be training for a week in London, where he had access to a good gym and kosher food. Instead the people running the promotion in England housed him in Newcastle, where the accommodations were less than ideal and Khan’s fans harassed him day and night. Salita was knocked down three times in the first round and was stopped on a first-round TKO. It is still a sore spot for Salita.
“I don’t want to go into all the things that happened,” Salita said. “It’s over and I’m moving on.”
After the loss Salita set about getting his career back in order and moving on with his life. He got married in 2009 and had a daughter, Mila Leah, in 2010. He started his own boxing promotion company, Star of David Promotions. When his longtime trainer and mentor, Jimmy O’Pharrow, died in 2011, Salita suffered another loss.
He went to Detroit and met with late trainer Emanuel Steward at the Kronk Gym and began training with Steward’s nephew, Javon “Sugar” Hill. The two of them set about trying to get Salita back into title contention. It has been a slow process.
After that first fight at the Barclays Center, Salita was supposed to return on the Danny Garcia-Zab Judah card against Hector Camacho Jr. When the initial card was postponed, Salita’s match against Camacho disintegrated. He said he was supposed to fight Ismael El Massoudi for an interim WBA title. But that fight also fell apart. Meanwhile he continued to work on promotions around New York.
Salita needs a victory over Bracero, who is writing his own redemption story, to put his name back on the map as a contender.
“I think this is a must-win fight,” DiBella said. “Bracero is a legitimate world contender and Dmitriy needs to beat a guy like that to get back there. The last time he was on a big stage he was terrible. He needs to do something to get back there. His popularity and his fan base are still there, but he needs to get back on that stage.”
Salita said he had a good training camp. He went to Del Ray Beach, Fla., to work with Hill, who is training light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. He believes he knows what to expect from Bracero, whose career was interrupted when he spent six years in prison in New York and New Jersey on robbery, aggravated assault and criminal possession of a weapon charges.
“We grew up together. I’ve known Gabriel since we both won the (New York) Golden Gloves,” Salita said. “It’s a good fight for me. It will get me to the next level. Rebuilding is a tough process.”
Photos by Al Bello-Golden Boy Promotions/Getty Images; Mario Tama-Getty Images