Everything was continuing to go well for Dmitriy Salita and Salita Promotions until March, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world.
It’s been a challenge for Dmitriy Salita to survive in the world of professional boxing as an Orthodox Jew.
He observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
That means no checking his phone, watching television, surfing the internet or driving, no handling of money, and no boxing or watching boxing shows he’s promoting during what’s usually a busy time of the week in his profession.
“I’ve always found a way to make it work,” said Salita, a former welterweight and junior welterweight boxer who retired from the ring in 2013 to devote his full attention to Salita Promotions, which he launched in 2010.
These days, the 38-year-old Southfield resident, who was born in Ukraine and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1991 with his family when he was 9 to escape rampant anti-Semitism, relies on his small staff at Salita Promotions to do what needs to get done while he’s away.
He said he has full confidence in his staff members’ abilities to fill in for him. As for paying his fighters, he’s had to be creative to make sure they get paid on time.
Last year, Salita promoted the biggest event in his company’s history, a nationally televised undisputed middleweight championship bout between undefeated fighters Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer, who are both promoted by Salita.
It was the first time that women headlined a Saturday night boxing card on the Showtime cable network. The show nearly filled a 3,500-seat auditorium in Atlantic City, N.J.
Everything was continuing to go well for Salita Promotions until March, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world.
Salita hasn’t presented a show since then. He’s even temporarily closed his West Bloomfield office until he feels it’s safe to open it again.
Among Salita’s fight cancellations was a May 9 bout between Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion, and Marie-Eve Dicaire in Shields’ hometown of Flint.
With Michigan slowly reopening, Salita has a plan for his next show.
He wants to put together a boxing card at the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit, hopefully by the end of August. It will be a made-for-television show, with no fans in attendance.
He thinks the atmosphere will be more authentic and create more energy than the antiseptic shows being presented by ESPN from the fan-less MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Salita has about 35 boxers in his stable, including Shields and former heavyweight title contender Otto Wallin.
The group also includes nearly a dozen boxers from former Soviet bloc countries who are being trained by Javan “SugarHill” Steward, nephew of the late fabled trainer Emanuel Steward, in the Kronk Gym.
“There are so many good boxers, world-class boxers, in gyms who just need to be recognized nationally,” Salita said. “That’s especially true in Detroit. We’re the comeback city and home to world- champion boxers.”
Salita’s YouTube channel, which gets 4 million views a month, includes “Train Like a Boxer” at-home workouts that he began posting in mid-April.
Salita had a 54-5 amateur record, and a 35-2-1 record in 12 years as a professional fighter.
The 2001 Golden Gloves junior welterweight champion and winner of the Ray Robinson Award as the amateur tournament’s outstanding boxer, Salita became a professional boxer that year at age 19.
That’s when he signed with Las Vegas-based Bob Arum, whose Top Rank promotions has represented boxing stars such as George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao.
Salita never boxed professionally on the Sabbath, nicknamed himself “The Star of David,” decorated his blue boxing gloves with silver Stars of David and wore a yarmulke everywhere except in the ring.
“Boxing has helped me with my Judaism, and Judaism has helped me with my boxing. If it wasn’t for boxing, I might not be as religious as I am,” Salita told the Washington Post in 2002.
“Every time before I fight, I ask God for help, even when I spar. You’re there all alone. The only one who can help you is God.”
It was while he was living in Brooklyn that Salita became an Orthodox Jew. He attended services at the Chabad of Flatbush.
Salita trained at the iconic Starrett City Boxing Club in Brooklyn, starting when he was 13, and the Kronk Gym with Emanuel Steward. He moved to the Detroit area in 2016.
A Top Rank publicist said this about Salita in the 2002 Washington Post story: “Maybe every 75 years a good Jewish fighter comes along. Dmitriy is as rare as Halley’s Comet.”