Friday, October 27, 2023

Dmitriy Salita: Ready to Knock the Door Down

"I have an aversion to not being let in the door." Those are the words of promoter Dmitriy Salita, the former title challenger (against Amir Khan) and amateur standout who won the U.S. Golden Gloves tournament. While he was still an active fighter, Salita started his own company and promoted himself on his own shows. In a few short years, many notable fighters approached him about appearing on his cards or signing with him. Salita saw boxing promotion as his future and knew that with his experience in the sport, connections with fighters, and desire to succeed, that he could thrive. 

In 2016 Salita faced a crisis that happens to many young promoters: sharks in the water. Salita had fast-rising heavyweight prospect Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller under contract. Offers came in for Salita to co-promote Miller with bigger companies: he wasn't interested. And when that didn't work, they tried to poach him. Salita didn't take well to being bullied. 

"I’m an immigrant," Salita said. "When I came to the United States, my parents could only afford Payless shoes. All the kids used to make fun of me. So, I had to defend myself. With Miller, when people wanted to push on me, when they wanted to bully me, I stood my ground and I defended my fighters and my business...I hired the best lawyers that money could buy, and I kicked ass."

But an interesting thing happened after that incident. Salita believed that he started to garner a lot of respect from his fellow promoters. They saw that he was willing to stand up for himself. And while Salita wants to win and grow his business, he doesn't believe in boxing as a zero-sum game. He wants to work with others, when it makes sense. He does have co-promotional deals for a couple of his fighters with DiBella Entertainment. He has frequently had his fighters appear on Matchroom Boxing cards. When he has been the lead promoter on ShoBox cards, he has invited other promoters to fill slots on the broadcast. 

Salita (right) with Claressa Shields
Photo courtesy of Salita Promotions

Salita's story takes him from Ukraine, in what was then part of the Soviet Union, to the tough Brooklyn fight scene of the '90s (his trained at the Starrett City Boxing Club, which included notables such as Zab Judah, Danny Jacobs, Shannon Briggs and Luis Collazo, among many others), to now Detroit, where he is working to revive boxing in what was once one of the sport's glamour cities. All throughout his travels, he has made connections that have led to him amassing an impressive stable of fighters, especially when considering he has yet to have a secure network deal. 

His highest profile fighter is Claressa Shields. Salita saw her potential as an attraction before others in the industry did. He had her headlining a show at the MGM Grand in Detroit in just her second professional fight. The place sold out, and it was the venue's first ever boxing card. Salita was able to get Shields a headlining slot for ShoBox, becoming the first woman to headline a card in the franchise's history. Shields' fight earlier this year against Maricela Cornejo sold over 11,000 tickets. 

Salita Promotions has numerous ascendent fighters, from those approaching the championship level, such as Shohjahon Ergashev, who is scheduled to fight Subriel Matias for a world title later this year, and undefeated super middleweight Vladimir Shishkin, to undefeated middleweight prospect and decorated amateur Joseph Hicks. He also has heavyweight contenders Otto Wallin and Jermaine Franklin. 

Salita prides himself on his eye for talent. As a fighter, he originally signed with Top Rank. He had the opportunity to learn from Bruce Trampler and Sean Gibbons as to how to evaluate styles and when to sign or pass on a young talent. Salita was a sponge and always asked questions about the sport. 

One key he believes in is the family situation of a young fighter. Does the fighter have stability? Has he or she been able to overcome adversity in life? What is the fighter's support system? 

Salita also understands the power of branding and marketing. He understands the relative apathy that many Eastern European fighters face in the American market. Often without natural fan bases and with names that aren't easy to pronounce, these fighters, even the talented ones, can struggle to attract attention. Salita had a long-standing relationship with SugarHill Steward going back to his professional career. And when he signed Shishkin (whom he had initially discovered from YouTube!) and Ergashev, he immediately placed them with Steward, which provided those two fighters with instant credibility. 

"There are lots of fighters from the FSU, or former Soviet Union," said Salita. "And to Americans, they are all the same. They are indifferent to most of them. So, I felt I had to differentiate them. 

"First of all, Ergashev is a big puncher. He has a huge following in Uzbekistan. He’s like a national hero there, but he needed to team up with an American brand. And that brand was the Kronk Boxing Gym and SugarHill. So, I brought him to the United States, found him a place to live, and introduced him to SugarHill. 

"Shishkin, I saw two of his fights on YouTube. He beat a former world title contender from France [Nadjib Mohammedi]. I reached out to him. Sugar and him fit perfectly together. I believe that Emanuel Steward’s style of boxing is a combination of European and American boxing. It’s a fusion of the best of both worlds. And SugarHill is the progression of that."

As a transplant to the Detroit area, Salita has invested heavily in the local boxing scene. He was appalled at the quality of local shows when he initially arrived. Although there were talented fighters, very few were getting developed properly. 

"There are a lot of very talented fighters in Detroit," Salita said, "and there has always been. But the fighters weren't being developed, and the streets, the pressure of life, withered many of them away. The problem was that people in Detroit would fight in a local high school. Someone who was 7-0 would fight someone who was 0-3. They were never tested. They were never developed. And then they would go to fight in Vegas against someone who was tested, but they didn’t have the skills or the support to be able to progress themselves. And that was that. No one was looking out for them. 

"If you develop talented fighters wisely and properly, they can become contenders or world champions. If you have an infrastructure and a real system to developing fighters, from matchmaking to media to marketing to training, then the guys that have the talent can develop into something special. So, I feel that there is a lot of potential here."

Among his emerging Michigan fighters, Salita is particularly impressed with Hicks (9-0, 6 KOs, middleweight), Joshua Pagan (9-0, 4 KOs, junior welterweight) and Da'Velle Smith (7-0, 6 KOs, middleweight). And he continues to promote local shows in the area. 

With all the success that Salita has had in a relatively short time in the promotional ranks, he is far from self-satisfied. What he really craves is a network deal. To him, that will take his company to the big time. Without a consistent platform he knows that he will have to continue to scurry and hunt-and-peck to progress his fighters and his own company. 

He has a vision for the sport's growth. He understands the problems with network exclusivity and how it's a disincentive to creating compelling boxing offerings. He believes in retirement and pension plans for fighters. He wants to reengage boxing fans. But without a consistent home, he continues to face an uphill battle. 

However, despite his struggles to break through to the top level, he is optimistic about the future of Salita Promotions. He has created an infrastructure to take his company to the next level, including attorney David Berlin (who used to head the New York State Athletic Commission), matchmakers Steve Clemente and Eric Bottjer and P.R. ace Kelly Swanson. He has an individual plan for each one of his fighters. He knows that if an Ergashev or a Shishkin can break through, even more doors will open. His goals for himself are not modest: 

"I want to be one of the main providers of boxing in the United States," he said. "I want to make the biggest and the best fights. I want to work with everyone. And I want to grow the sport. And I believe I can do all of that."

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Charlo

Let's start at the end, shall we? After Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's domination of Jermell Charlo, Canelo was jubilant during the post-fight interview. "I love boxing so f$&#ing much," the undisputed super middleweight champion shouted, smiling ear to ear. Leading up to Saturday's fight, Canelo had acknowledged slippage in his most recent outings, and he declared that he had rededicated himself to the sport. For this fight he left his comfortable San Diego home base for the mountains near Lake Tahoe and scheduled a 14-week training camp, not the sign of a boxer who is cutting corners.   

The results were striking. It was immediately apparent how much better he looked on his feet. Canelo had a bounce to his step. His footwork wasn't ponderous. And he put together a strong 12 rounds. There was no fade; he didn't look labored. He was focused on the task at hand. He looked like a craftsman who had fallen back in love with his work. 

Canelo lands a left hook to the body
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Showtime

After losing 10 or 11 of the rounds on Saturday, Charlo didn't seem particularly bothered by his defeat. In his post-fight interview, he talked about how he had been proud of himself, that he dared to be great, that he could move back down to 154 lbs. 

Yet his effort didn't live up to the "Lions Only" moniker that he and his brother had given themselves. Charlo never looked comfortable or confident. He was far more concerned with being evasive in the ring than trying to mount a consistent offense. He got in a sharp left hook every so often, but the commitment to win just wasn't there.  

It was a strange performance from Charlo, who had always fought hard during his tough matchups. Even when things hadn't gone his way in several of his bouts, he had a way of willing himself back into fights. He saved a draw with his late-round rally in the first Brian Castano fight. He had trouble with John Jackson's movement before stopping him. Tony Harrison was having a great second fight until Charlo turned it around with a late-round knockout.  

But against Canelo, Charlo was compliant in his defeat. He capitulated. In watching the fight, I never got the sense that he believed he could win, or even if he couldn't, that he would do his absolute best to try for it. I'm sure being knocked down in the seventh spooked him, but well before that point the fight had failed to be competitive.  

Charlo taking a knee in the seventh
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin

Although there was a significant power gap between the two, which certainly affected Charlo, the most striking difference to me was their respective defenses. While Charlo's defense has always been penetrable, he had almost always been able to get through with his best punches. And yet according to CompuBox, he landed less than 18% of his shots. Canelo essentially doubled Charlo's connect percentage. Although Charlo lacked Canelo's power, Canelo's victory was far more comprehensive than that factor. Charlo didn't even have the tools to land on Canelo on a consistent basis. And considering that Charlo entered the fight as an undisputed champion and one of the elites in the sport, that's quite an alarming piece of evidence. 

Canelo will always be known for his left hook, but I think that his right hook was the best punch of Saturday's fight. Like a surgeon, he was able to place the shot perfectly around Charlo's high guard and land it with thudding power. Charlo never made the defensive adjustment for the punch. The knockdown in the seventh was a direct result of Canelo's success with the right hook. With Charlo against the ropes, Canelo was lining up the right hand, but instead of hooking with it, he shot an overhead right between Charlo's gloves. The shot itself didn't knock Charlo down, but he took a knee to regroup; the punch was that devastating. Ultimately, Charlo's inability to defend the right hand was his single biggest defensive issue (and there were others). Instead of taking away Canelo's straight right or his right hook, Charlo was unable to do either. 

Throughout the rest of the fight Canelo mixed in an array of single shots: jabs, hooks, uppercuts. In the past he had several fights where he became too left hook-happy or was overly reliant on his overhand right. On Saturday, he was able to throw and land his entire arsenal. Although he rarely threw in combination, he offered an unpredictability with his punch selection that kept Charlo unsettled.  

The respective performances from Canelo and Charlo illustrate the importance of intangibles. Canelo fought like he had more to prove on the night. Essentially, it was a guy who wanted to be there against a guy who quickly didn't. Charlo is certainly a much better fighter than he showed on Saturday, but he wasn't interested in finding out what would happen if he really went for it. He's a guy who still has options at 154 and 160 lbs., and he fought like it. While Canelo demonstrated that he was the more skilled fighter in the ring, even that advantage can often be overcome or even challenged by an opponent's desire or will, but Charlo manifested none of that on Saturday.   

Charlo will certainly face another notable opponent in a lower weight class, but he will return to the ring with his reputation diminished. In the biggest moment of his career, Charlo made a deal with himself to survive. That is the opposite of what prizefighting is about. And while I'm sure that the additional zeroes in his bank account will take the sting off his loss, the fans and the boxing industry will remember his poor showing. He had a historic opportunity to cement his legacy, to become an era-defining fighter, and he didn't go for it, deciding instead to be satisfied with his participation trophy.

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.