A sensational welterweight prospect, Dimitriy is a sharp, accurate puncher with good handspeed. After he moved to Brooklyn, Dmitriy was exposed to orthodox Judaism and became an observant Jew. He strictly follows Jewish law – if he has a fight on a Saturday, it must begin after sundown, the end of the sabbath. Dmitriy said, “Anyone who wants a good whuppin’ from me is just going to have to wait until sundown.” There are as many as 70 Jewish holy days on which he will not fight, and he follows Jewish dietary laws. When he’s training, he stays within walking distance of a synagogue for Friday and Saturday services – he’s not allowed to drive on the sabbath.
Promoter Bob Arum said, “If he’s as good as it appears he is, and he can be held up as an example of religious devotion to both Jews and gentiles, he’ll be a great attraction.”
Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Dmitriy moved with his family to Brooklyn at the age of nine; he said, “Basically, we came to America because Jews were discriminated against. My parents thought that my brother and I wouldn’t grow up with the opportunity to be the best that we could be. My brother, who is nine years older then I am, used to get into a lot of fights, because he was often called names. There were rumors of pogrom every now and then, and Jews would go away to the suburbs from the city. ‘Pogrom’ means that groups of people would break into homes and bash the house. I remember that my father bought a gun just in case something was to happen. It was very difficult to get top jobs or to go to top schools and still remain proud of your Judaism. I am very grateful to America for letting me pursue my goals, and have freedom of religion and speech. You don’t normally appreciate it, but when you don’t have it, you understand just how great it is to have it. Now that I am older, I understand it.”
In New York, classmates picked on Dmitriy in school; he said, “When I first started going to school, I had the clothes that I wore over in Russia. I used to get made fun of because of it, and the fact that I didn’t speak English. I had to learn how to defend myself. I got involved in karate and as time went on my brother brought me to a boxing club. That is how it all started. I got called into the principal’s office. I got suspended a few times, but I got my respect. I started kicking some ass at school.”
He started boxing at the age of 13 at the Starrett City Boxing Club, which is run by Jimmy O’Pharrow; Jimmy said, “My gym’s like a league of nations. I seen every kind of kid come through the doors, but I ain’t never seen one like this Dmitriy. Kid looks Russian, prays Jewish and fights black.”…Dmitriy said, “Jimmy runs an old school gym, a ghetto gym. My style isn’t European. It isn’t even American. It’s a city style. It’s black. I don’t know how else to say it. But some of us white boys got it like that.”…the radio at Starrett was always tuned to HOT 97; Dmitriy described it as “Blasting. A lot of Biggie. A lot of Tupac. I think that changed my style. That’s what gave me some rhythm.” …Dmitriy had a reported amateur record of 59-5.
2001 New York Golden Gloves champion, 139 pounds – Dmitriy won the finals on 4-5-01 at Madison Square Garden in New York City; Bill Farrell of the New York Daily News reported, “In a bout that lived up to all its expectations, Dmitriy Salita battled past Joey Rios to win the Golden Gloves 139-pound open title last night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The 3-2 decision won by Salita in as fine a boxing match ever staged in the Golden Gloves finals earned Salita the Sugar Ray Robinson Award as the outstanding boxer in the tournament. Salita, who is as talented as they come, got into his rhythm midway through Round 2 and finally took control of the bout to earn the decision and a pair of Golden Gloves.”
Dmitriy said, “You know, with me growing up in New York, the New York Golden Gloves is a big, big deal. A lot of the great fighters that have come out of New York have all managed to win the Golden Gloves. The Golden Gloves in New York is like the Olympic games, everyone knows about it. You really get your respect after you win the New York Golden Gloves. I thought that it was an important step, and that it would boost my professional career. Plus, I was just dying to have those Golden Gloves around my neck.”
His mother, Lyudmila, originally opposed Dmitriy’s boxing, but eventually became an enthusiastic supporter …she passed away in January, 1999, after a two-year battle with cancer… when she was hospitalized, Dmitriy divided his time between James Madison High School, the Starrett gym, and Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital; he said, “I’d spend the night sleeping in a chair at the hospital and wake up to do my roadwork.”
Dmitriy said, “I will never compromise my beliefs. Never. It’s not a question. I have a personal relationship with God that I won’t compromise. My boxing is such a big part of my life, but it won’t get in the way of my religion. It can’t, and it won’t.”
Dmitriy said, “I enjoy being different. People are surprised at how good the white, Jewish kid is, surprised that I can fight. I take that as a compliment.”