He had a ring career better than 99.9 percent of his colleagues.
And these days, Dmitriy Salita is aiming to replicate that success beyond the ropes.
The Brooklyn-based Ukrainian earned a second-tier belt by beating Derrick Campos on the Calzaghe-Jones show at Madison Square Garden in 2008 and translated it to a challenge of recognized 140-pound champ Amir Khan 13 months later on the WBA claimant’s home turf in the United Kingdom.
He began transitioning to a full-time promoter’s role within a year of the failed title shot and spent the final chapter of his gloved run laying the foundation for the company – Salita Promotions – whose fighters now include the world’s premier female boxer and several significant male heavyweights.
But just because the new career is thriving doesn’t mean Salita, now 40, isn’t missing the old days.
In fact, his choice of follow-up occupation is ample evidence the competitive itch never really left.
“We guys that have been doing boxing since we were kids – I started at age 13 – your whole life as a teenager, as a young adult, as an adult revolves around boxing,” he told BoxingScene.
“Around waking up in the morning and running or going to the gym, then going to the gym again and planning for your fights and skipping meals and going to sleep hungry. It becomes your life for 20 plus years. Ofcourse, you miss it. It becomes a real part of you. It’s not easy to wake up one day and say ‘OK, I’m gonna sell insurance,’ ‘I’m gonna be a teacher,’ whatever it is.
“Because you grew up with a certain set of skills and a certain way of operating and of viewing the world as a fighter and then once you get closer to retirement, then you retire. It’s a significant transition from that type of life to the life of a regular businessman or a regular person. It’s different in many ways.”
Different, as well, was his mission statement, which focused less on the extravagance of mega-promoters and more on providing a platform for fighters still taking formative steps.
He signed fellow Brooklynite Jarrell Miller while the now-34-year-old was still fighting prelims, steered Swedish lefty Otto Wallin to a career-defining scrap with Tyson Fury – leaving the lineal king with nearly 50 stitches – and was first to champion the cause of dual-gold medalist Claressa Shields, who’s subsequently headlined on premium cable, earned titles in three weight classes and was the A-side of the most-watched women’s bout in history, all while fighting under the Salita Promotions banner.
In all, he’s got 40 fighters on the roster, and business got a significant boost Saturday when unbeaten super middleweight Vladimir Shishkin defeated ex-champ Jose Uzcategui in a Showtime-televised title eliminator that could lead to a high-profile bout with a returning Canelo Alvarez in the spring.
And, speaking of television, it’ll play a significant role in ensuring future progress, too.
“The biggest next step for my company to develop and progress to the next level is to get a streaming or a TV deal so we can have consistency and these fighters can develop in a good way and the sport of boxing can grow,” he said . “I have lots of ideas that I want to implement, including a retirement fund for fighters that would be based off a deal with a broadcaster. That’s kind of the next challenge.”
Salita debuted as a fighter in 2001 and fought on several significant undercards with Top Rank before also spending promotional time working with Lou DiBella, Square Ring and Golden Boy.
His initial days as a fighting promoter came when he was no longer interested in committing exclusively to another entity, and now that he’s assembled a client roster he’s remained just as flexible – with events landing on Showtime, HBO, UFC Fight Pass, FITE, and DAZN, among others.
“I’ve seen the highest level of the sport and experienced it from the inside in a tremendous way,” he said. “It gave me a chance to see how they operate. All of this was very formative for me and very important because I love boxing and I love to see how different people skin the cat.
“That is of tremendous value to me.”
Also of tremendous value, he said, is what’s on tap for 2023.
Salita ticked off several items on his wish list for the new year – including signing off on a TV/streaming deal to grow the roster of talent, securing Shishkin a chance at Canelo before his would-be rematch with Dmitry Bivol, landing Wallin a date with Anthony Joshua, getting Jermaine Franklin a second crack at Dillian Whyte, and tilling new ground for Shields with a bout in Africa and/or the Middle East.
From there, he said, the view would look pretty good 12 years later.
And feel pretty rewarding.
“I love boxing and I always loved the business side of boxing as well,” he said.
“There were some really good fighters that needed to get some work and, as a fighter, needing that service of just giving guys an opportunity to fight and stay busy. Shortly thereafter, the boat took off in a very fast way.
“I’ve been to the mountain top, and I’ve seen the promised land, but I’ve never dwelled there. I had to really build from the bottom up and deal with all the logistics from a very basic level until we got to this point.”
* * * * * * * * * *
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.