By Ryan Songalia
The surroundings were very familiar to Dmitriy Salita. The 29-year-old welterweight contender from Brooklyn had been in the 20th floor office of the New York State Athletic Commission many times before to weigh-in for his local bouts.
The main difference now from most of Salita’s past visits to the Commission is that he is not only one of the boxers stepping on the scales, but the show’s promoter as well.
The Odessa, Ukraine native Salita, who holds a pro record of 32-1-1 (17 KO) will meet 34-year-old Oklahoma City, OK native Ronnie Warrior Jr., 13-4-1 (4 KO) in an eight-round bout at the Oceana Hall in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
This will be Salita Promotions’ third event since September, all of which he has competed in the show’s main event. The show will be televised by the Jewish Channel, which has only ventured into sports for Salita’s fights.
It will be his third fight since his only career loss – a first round TKO to WBA junior welterweight champ Amir Khan in England.
Salita’s drawing power on the New York club circuit spoke volumes about business savvy, which makes the transition to promoter all the more natural.
“I’m glad to have more control over my career and where it’s going,” said Salita, who checked in at 149 pounds to his opponent’s 148 for Wednesday’s show.
“I’m a fighter and I understand what motivates and encourages boxers to make it. Boxing has been my American dream, as it has been for a lot of people.”
Warrior, who is coming in off two consecutive defeats, said he isn’t intimidated by what will be an extremely partisan crowd tomorrow night.
“My last fight was in front of 17,000 [In Quebec City, Canada against Kevin Bizier],” said Warrior Jr., who admits to not being familiar with Salita’s style. “I do it a lot so it’s nothing different to me.”
Since turning pro in 2001, the former Daily News Golden Gloves champ and Ray Robinson Award Winner Salita had at one time or another been aligned with promotional outfits Top Rank Inc., Dibella Entertainment and Square Ring Promotions, the latter which was helmed by boxer/businessman Roy Jones Jr.
“I’ve been involved with three successful promoters and I learned from them and how they did business,” Salita said.
Salita’s attorney Kurt Emhoff, who first worked with Salita to help extricate him from the Top Rank deal and has seen him through his other promotional deals, is one of the men charged with ensuring that the boxer doesn’t overburden himself with business while preparing for fights.
“He has a good team around him so he tries to stay somewhat insulated from the ticky-tack things before the fight,” said Emhoff. “Dmitriy was always more than any other fighter I’ve worked with involved with the business things, whether that was hustling endorsements, making appearances or doing interviews.
“I don’t think it distracts from his preparation before the fight any more than it did before.”
Salita’s primary distraction during training camp at the famed KRONK Gym didn’t come from selling tickets or matching fights, but in the passing of his mentor and New York boxing staple Jimmy O’Pharrow.
“Jimmy O”, who passed away in February at the age of 85, first introduced Salita to boxing at age 13 at Starrett City Boxing Club. O’Pharrow was a ghetto savior of sorts to many of the Brooklynites who walked into his gym, including Salita.
When the teenage Salita had to miss classes to be at his mother’s side for cancer treatment, it was O’Pharrow who would call the school to make sure he didn’t get in trouble.
Salita has dedicated the show to the memory of O’Pharrow and will make a donation to the Jimmy O’ Foundation that supports the Starrett City Boxing Club.
The card has many more connections to O’Pharrow. The show’s co-feature will include former WBA welterweight champ Luis Collazo, who started under O’Pharrow, and the show will be matched by Felipe Gomez, who also was a Golden Gloves champ under O’Pharrow.
Salita and Collazo are both trained by Nirmal Lorick, who was an O’Pharrow protégé’.
“Jimmy stays alive through successful programs that continue to fulfill his legacy through boxing,” said Salita. “He has helped many kids not just in boxing, but helped them to stay off the streets and become successful people.”
Salita didn’t want to comment on his own career looking forward, preferring to instead focus on the task ahead. He did voice an intention in maintaining a busy schedule and staying sharp.
Emhoff also feels that staying busy is important, and that the opportunities will gradually open themselves up.
“The idea is to put himself in the position to fight an eliminator and keep winning and see what’s out there,” said Emhoff. “We’ve been pursuing some big opportunities. We were in talks with Souleymane M'baye to fight for the interim WBA welterweight title, but it looks like he’ll face Matthew Hatton instead.
“So it’s frustrating sometimes.”
“Like any other promoter, [Salita] wants to grow the company and compete with the big boys. At this point it’s small and very local. He’s going to be expanding and signing fighters. He’s keeping it lean and manageable at this point. When the day comes that he stops fighting, you’ll see the growth even more.”
Collazo Back After Nearly Two Years Off
It’s been nearly two years since Luis Collazo had been in a boxing ring. The Queens, NY resident and former welterweight champion hadn’t competed since June of 2009, when he stopped an unknown opponent with a losing record in six rounds.
Yet despite all of the layoffs and battles with Ricky Hatton, Andre Berto and Shane Mosley, Collazo is still relatively young at 29.
Now that his contract with Don King Promotions has expired, he looks to get his career back on track against 35-year-old Frankie Gonzalez of the Dominican Republic, who has a record of 13-8 (9 KO).
“This is my prime here, now,” said Collazo, 30-4 (15 KO). “I’m going to take it fight by fight and keep focusing on my craft. My contract is up and I don’t have to sit around and wait for when I’m gonna get another fight. I’m trying to fight every month or every other month if possible.”
Despite having his career marred by inactivity, Collazo says he doesn’t hold anything against his Florida-based former promoter.
“People don’t understand that he was the only one who gave me the opportunity. You live and you learn. I experienced a lot from him,” said Collazo.
In Gonzalez, Collazo is meeting an opponent who has lost five straight since coming to this country for work.
Nelson Lopez Jr., who trains and manages Gonzalez, acknowledged the uphill battle they are embarking on.
“He knows he's up against something tough,” said Lopez, who trains fighters out of a mini boxing compound in Pahokee, FL.
“This is gonna be a tough fight, but at least he's getting paid for the tough fight.”
Lopez said Gonzalez had faced a 10-0 Danny O’Connor for only $2,000 under a previous manager, and then went eight rounds with Salita in September for only $2,500.
For this match, Lopez said Gonzalez will receive a $10,000 paycheck.
Collazo checked in at 152 pounds to Gonzalez’s 151 for the ten round bout.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMANews.TV and the Filipino Reporter newspaper. From January through April, he will cover the Daily News Golden Gloves tournament for the New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] . An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ryansongalia .