God in My Corner

By Dmitriy Salitaprofessional boxer Since I am ranked as the No. 1 junior welterweight contender in the world, my next … Continued

By Dmitriy Salita
professional boxer

Since I am ranked as the No. 1 junior welterweight contender in the world, my next boxing match will be for a championship title against the winner of the July 18 world title fight of Andrea Kotelnik vs. Amir Khan.

People think boxing matches are about physical strength. But my journey has taught me that my main strength comes from spirituality.

Becoming a world champion boxer was my dream ever since I was a young boy. After moving to Brooklyn from the Ukraine in 1991, the isolation of the immigrant experience led me to seek out a boxing club while I was only 13 years old. While most American Jewish boys were studying for their bar mitzvah, I was dreaming of becoming a boxer.

When I was 14 years old, my mother became ill with cancer. During a visit to my mother’s hospital room, I met a chassidic man who was visiting his own wife. A friendship formed and he put me in contact with Rabbi Zalman Liberow of Chabad of Flatbush. Rabbi Liberow encouraged me to gradually accept more rituals of Judaism and I grew to love the traditions of my ancestors. I began to pray every day and eat kosher food.

Meanwhile, my boxing career was progressing. When I turned 17 it was time to compete in the NYC Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament. I made it to the finals which were on a Friday night. By this time I had learned that Friday night was the Jewish Sabbath, and I felt guilty about fighting, but I decided to fight anyway. I was excited about the opportunity to win the tournament and get a lucrative offer to turn pro. Alas, it was not meant to be and I lost.

I thought about quitting, getting a regular job and forgetting about my dream of becoming a world champion. A few months after the Golden Gloves, I was picked to compete in the U.S. Amateur Championships held in Gulfport, Mississippi. One more try I thought. I trained diligently, and came to my Rabbi for a blessing to win. Rabbi Lieberow told me that I could have an impact as a positive role model, but he reminded me that I should observe the Sabbath.

I decided to make this commitment and to take the next step in my religious observance of not fighting on Sabbath. This was a crossroads point in my life. I worked hard and put my faith in the hands of G-D I decided that G-D rules the world and my testament to that as a Jew was by observing the Sabbath.

In Mississippi, I was told that the finals were on the Sabbath and I would be disqualified if I did not fight. Since I was not favored to make it to the finals, I didn’t worry about it. But after scoring two upset victories, I made it to the finals. I was fully ready to be disqualified, but thankfully the tournament organizers decided to move the match so that I could participate.

This time I won the tournament and became the U.S. National Champion. I also entered the Golden Gloves again the following year. I made it to the finals at Madison Square Garden. This time the finals were held on a Thursday and I won the tournament. Shortly thereafter I turned pro and have now compiled a record of 30-0.

Looking back on these past 10 years, I recognize that the direction I got from my rabbi gave me a core strength that I carry both inside and outside the ring. I now dedicate my life not only to winning boxing matches but to teaching children how to engage in non-competitive boxing so that they can be physically fit and gain confidence in themselves.

Boxing is a mental game as much as it is a physical one. My immigrant story, my mother’s illness, and my dedication to Shabbat, are all a part of my strength and a fundamental reason for my success as a boxer. I look forward to my title fight, which I now know–no matter what–will not be on Friday night. That fight I have already won.

Dmitriy Salita, an Orthodox Jew and the No. 1 junior welterweight contender, delivered this sermon July 14 at Ohev Sholom–The National Synagogue.

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  • LoV2Praise

    Dmitri, I really enjoyed reading your article. I am a Christian and I can respect your decision to put God first. That is what life is all about, believing that we are here not for just for our own agenda, but to leave a legacy of faith hope and love by using our gifts, talents and resources to help someone else. When you hold to your faith in God and put Him first he will give you the desires of your heart, he promises good success. I have a passion for music and singing just as you do for boxing. The world needs to see people of faith taking a stand for what they believe in. I pray for your success in becoming the World Champion. One Faith, One God! (I am an Active Duty Major in the United States Army currently serving in the Washington DC area and these views are my personal views and do not express the view of the U.S. Army, MAJ Princess Atunrase)

  • Aron4

    Boxing mafia sabotaging Dmitriy because Dmitriy doesn’t band down because once you bend down it is hard to get up. Dmitriy Salita is being boycoted by boxing mafia for being a proud jew.

  • Aron4

    Bulying of Dmitriy Salita is sponsored by Lou Dibella and Bob Arum

  • eidel1

    There are so many comments with which I disagree. I am saddened by Rabbi Wolpe’s belief that the Torah is not true. He, as many others, forgets the Torah was written for the people in language the people could understand; for example, it does not literally rain cats and dogs but the meaning is understood. As for the observation of Shabbat;this is not a magical ritual that equals good luck. The observance is an inner building of strength and peace, not a charm that equals victory of anything except ones soul. The idea of the stick and the carrot does not exist in Judaism. All the above being said, I wish Mr. Salita the best in his chosen career.

  • WmarkW

    Religion is biggest among the athletes in sports that take the most physical beating (e.g. football and boxing). I suppose if you’re willing to sacrifice your body that way, it helps to think there’s a higher power that you’re either serving or getting strength from. Which doesn’t imply it’s true, of course, only that it’s useful.

  • ccnl1

    “Religion is biggest among the athletes in sports that take the most physical beating (e.g. football and boxing).”Au Contraire!!! It is because the athletes in these two sports are typically the least educated.

  • WmarkW

    BTW, has any African-American baseball player ever taken a Muslim name, like Muhammed Ali, Ahmad Rashad or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in other sports? I can’t think of one.

  • boxreform

    @wmarkw – I think you’re right about baseball and names (though I have no idea what relevance it has to the story above) – the only Muslim I can think of currently in the MLB is Khalil Greene and he is Caucasian-American. All of the athletes you site to seem to have changed their names in the late 60’s-early 70’s when civil rights was a bigger issue and Elijah Muhammad was viewed as a black leader. It seems somewhat passe today.@CCNL1 – not sure you’re right about NFL players being less educated than baseball or basketball players. Typically, NFL players have gone through at least three or four years of college before they are drafted as opposed to MLB where they can be drafted straight out of high school. Most of the top NBA picks in recent years have either been straight out of high school or only one year of college. BTW – the author of the article (Salita) is enrolled in college in NYC and working his way towards a degree – more than most NBA or MLB players can say. I certainly don’t see many of them writing articles for The Post.

  • Aron4

    Boxing’s biggest antisemite Oscar De La Hoya in association with Luis Barragan from HBO is going against the Law, against WBA rules trying to do a damage to Dmitriy Salita again.

  • Aron4

    It is very unfortunate that Luis Barragan runs HBO like it is his business. He is antisemite who going against the law with his body Oscar De La Hoya to damage Dmitriy’s career. According to WBA rule Salita is official challenger and supposed to fight for a title within 90 days against Khan. De La Hoya and Luis Barragan are trying to interfere by saying that HBO is interesting in Maidana. But HBO is not governing body and HBO didn’t create WBA rules neither is De La Hoya, and it is not HBO who wants Maidana, it is Luis Barragan and Oscar DH – based on what they are doing, they are two cryminals.

  • Aron4