By George M. Phillips
Tarick Salmaci has had a roller coaster ride in the sport of boxing. Originally from Detroit, Tarick started boxing at the age of 8 at a local recreation center. With support and training from his grandfather and father (who were both professional boxers) Tarick has built up a professional record of 20-1, before retiring in 2001 after the inability to land a title shot. Before going Pro, Tarick was an Olympic Trials finalist.
After Tarick gave up on boxing, he went on to earn a B.A. from the University of Michigan, got his real estate license and became a broker with RE/MAX Team 2000 in Dearborn, Mi. He sells homes there and also fixes up old houses and flips them.
Despite financial success and a six-figure income, Tarick felt like something was still missing in his life. He wanted another shot at achieving his lifelong dream, wining a world title. In 2004, he was contacted to star on the reality boxing show 'The Contender', he jumped at the chance to get back in the ring.
Tarick is married to his high school sweetheart, Dena, a freelance make-up artist and model. The couple has a three-year-old daughter, Ava.
BoxingScene sat down with Tarick to talk about his career, the contender and what the future may hold.
BoxingScene.com: When did your career in boxing begin?
My boxing career began at the age of eight at the Joe Hamood recreational center, which was in the Detroit area. It was a rec. center that helped keep us kids off the streets. My parents owned a party store at the time and they both worked. I would go stay with an aunt of mine while they worked. I would go to the Joe Hamood center everyday. We played games, shot pool, ping pong, video games, did our homework. It really kept us off the streets. One day they introduced boxing as an activity. About 30 or 40 of us started boxing, but I was the only one that stuck with it.
BoxingScene.com: Have you always been a boxing fan?
Boxing has always been in our family. My grandfather Roberto Salmaci fought professionally in Argentina. My dad messed around a little as an amateur. I played all sports as a kid. Football was my favorite. So I was never pushed into boxing. It just happened coincidentally at the recreation center. Once I decided to join, my dad was supportive and behind me throughout my career. So I was lucky for that.
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on the current state of the sport?
I think the boxing end is fine. There are great fights. It’s the terrible decisions and the business side of the sport that give boxing a bad name. I think fighters need a world-wide union to stick up for them and a national commission needs to be formed. A lot of fighters are lied too and given false promises. Others are not paid nearly the amount they deserve. So a lot of work needs to be done in boxing to help revive it, but I think it will always be successful at the top level because people will always buy the big fights.
BoxingScene.com: What are your ultimate goals in this sport?
My ultimate goal has always been to win the world championship. I was once rated 4th in the world by the WBO and 6th by the WBC. I did win the NABO super middleweight championship. I had a contract to fight Joe Calzaghe for the world championship back in the late 90s. The fight never materialized and I was never compensated or given another chance. I went through a lot of frustration in this sport which drained me mentally. Lots of false promises and lied too. So I walked away in 2001 for good, so I thought. I went back to college and got my bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. I also got into the real estate business, and began doing really well for myself and my family. I never even looked back. I had a new life. Then in 2004 I got the call for "The Contender". I jumped at the opportunity.
If it wasn't for "The Contender" I would have never came back to boxing in the state boxing was in. I knew "The Contender" would give me the shot I never had. It kind of put closure to that thought of never getting my opportunity, and at the same token opened up a lot of doors for me in boxing. I know that if I was an active fighter when the show took place, I would have been a lot sharper in the ring, and the results may have been different. I was coming off a three and half year lay off and only two months to get ready. The timing wasn't there and it was just too much too fast in getting in shape. But like I always say, "better late than never".
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on all the various sanctioning bodies? Has it tainted the sport?
Having all these sanctioning bodies has tainted the sport to a point. There are too many champions and the average fan doesn't even know who the champion is anymore. Even I don't know a lot of the champions out there. It’s getting worse. More and more sanctioning bodies are being formed. It’s all because of money. When you advertise a fight as a world championship, it looks better to the fan and to TV. A national commission would abolish many of the so-called world championship organizations.
BoxingScene.com: What are your hobbies, interest outside of the squared circle?
As I mentioned earlier, I work in the real estate market. I am a real estate broker with Remax Team 2000 in Dearborn, Mi. Other than that, I enjoy spending time with my wife Dena and my three year old daughter Ava. She is the joy of my life. We all go to the movies, the beach, the mall, picnics. I also love football and I'm a huge fan. I'm in a fantasy football league this year. It’s a great time.
BoxingScene.com: Who are your role models and mentors?
My role model growing up was Muhammad Ali. I loved Muhammad Ali for what he did more outside the ring more than for what he did inside the ring. Don’t get me wrong. He was a great fighter. It’s just that I respect him more for the humanitarian he is. He has done a lot for the poor, sick, and less fortunate. I always loved Dan Marino growing up. He was my favorite athlete. I want to meet him one day run out and catch a pass from him. That would be the best. I also have a lot of respect for Lance Armstrong. He has overcome a lot of adversity and is an example too many.
BoxingScene.com: Tell us about the Contender. How has it helped you personally and professionally?
Being on the contender changed my life. More so than I thought it would before the show aired. Its weird going places now and people recognizing me. But it’s cool. It helped me in both my boxing and real estate career. I have a lot more opportunities as a boxer now that people know who I am. The same goes for real estate. First impression is everything in real estate and people kind of know me personally before even meeting me. So that always helps. I would like to get into boxing commentating. I've also taken some acting classes. Acting is something I always wanted to do after my boxing career ended. So I'm looking to get into that soon.
BoxingScene.com: Will the second season succeed?
I think ESPN is a great home for the contender and I believe it will do well there. I don't think it will ever be as good as season one. The first season is always the best and the mix of character we had on the show is going to be hard to match. Season one was actually a huge hit. It had sort of a cult following and opened up the eyes of non-boxing fans and made them into boxing fans. NBC did not look at it as a huge hit because it did not get American Idol numbers watching. But a lot of people still watched. It got as big of an audience as all those successful sitcoms get. It’s just that you can’t sell the contender in re-runs as you could with sitcoms. Plus the money invested in "The Contender" was more than any other reality show in history. Even more expensive that American Idol.
So the network expected the American Idol numbers as far a viewers watching. They didn't get that, so NBC didn't pick it up again. Boxing fans and non-boxing fans who tuned in to the contender got hooked. The non-boxing fans that didn't tune, in didn't because they thought the show was only about boxing. The ones that did see it was more than boxing. It was a human drama about our lives outside the ring as well as inside. Boxing was only the last ten minutes of each episode. So I think season two will succeed on ESPN because the show appeals to everybody. ESPN would only need like four million households to tune in to be considered a huge hit. Season one got 8-10 million households per episode. But that was NBC, and the expectations were a lot bigger.
BoxingScene.com: What is on tap for Tarick in the future?
Right now I'm back in the real estate business and staying in shape. A fight against Joey Gilbert is in the works. I'm hoping it will happen in either January or February of 2006. It could happen super bowl weekend in Detroit or even in Joey's hometown of Reno. Hopefully I could get into commentating some fights and getting some auditions in acting.
BoxingScene.com: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
I would just like to thank everybody out there who voted me back as a fan favorite on the contender. You seen a rusty Tarick on the contender who was coming off a long inactivity. I promise that the next time I fight, imp going to impress. I am also going to campaign at my natural weight class of 168 lbs. Its just that I'm 6"1 and making the middleweight limit just drains me. So you should see a different Tarick the next time out. Please visit www.tarick.com for info on future and past fights. Thank you..