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Salita to Fight for World Championship
Finally. That was the one word that seemed to echo in the head of junior welterweight Dmitriy Salita this week. After years of waiting and negotiating and more waiting for a title fight, the unbeaten 140-pounder Lubavitcher Chossid from Brooklyn, has finally secured his dream: a shot at WBA title-holder Amir Khan. Salita (30-0-1, 16 KO’s) will box Khan on Saturday, December 5 at the Metro Radio Arena in the United Kingdom. It’s a moment of validation for Salita. That now, finally, he has a chance to prove he is among the elite.Chabad, Lubavitcher

“I feel that dedication and hard work pays off,” Salita told Fightnews on Wednesday. “I knew and believed that this moment would come. I was close a few times and was even supposed to fight Andreas Kotelnik last November but I am the mandatory challenger now and am happy to be getting my title opportunity.” 

Salita has long been a staple at junior welterweight; every fight seeming to set up a bigger fight that never materialized. 

And while his ranking should be enforced, many have criticized his level of competition to this point. Salita, however, begs to differ.
 
“I haven’t had the bigger fights because the opportunities never materialized,” he said. “But now it’s finally here. I have been around top caliber fighters since being a young kid at Starrett city boxing club in Brooklyn and now I feel ready to rumble.”
 
He said he didn’t mind fighting in the back yard of his opponent, knowing that now is the time to put up or shut up. “As a world title challenger you have to travel and I am prepared to do my job,” he said. “I am OK with fighting overseas. My fights were shown in the U.K. early on in my career and I have gotten much positive response from the fans there.”

Jabbin' Jew vs. Muslim

It's the first time a Jew and a Muslim have fought for a title, said Brooklyn boxing-gym owner Tommy Gallagher.

"Hollywood couldn't have scripted this better," television personality Rabbi Shmuley Boteach said with a chuckle. "But I hope not too much hype is made of it. It's really cool that two people true to their faith rise to the top of their profession."

Salita, who lives in Flatbush, immigrated here from Ukraine when he was 9. He has since become a member of the Orthodox Jewish sect Chabad -- but that hasn't stopped him from going pro in 2001 and notching a 30-0 record.

Local members of the Chabad community show up en masse at his matches.

"You would think you were in a yeshiva," Boteach said. "All these men in Coke-bottle glasses who are the most gentle people in the world are screaming 'Hit him!' as loud as they can."

Although Salita's family was not observant, he found religion when he met a Chabad member in the hospital where his mother was dying of breast cancer.

Although Salita's family was not observant, he found religion when he met a Chabad member in the hospital where his mother was dying of breast cancer.

Salita doesn't wear a yarmulke when he steps into the ring, but he does sport one in public. He refuses to fight on the Jewish Sabbath, which means no Friday night fights.

He travels with a spiritual guide who cooks kosher food for him in their hotel room.

On the Sabbath, he puts tape over the room-door latch to keep it from locking so he doesn't have to use the electronic key card to get in.

He sees no contradiction between his religion and his profession.

"Judaism teaches you to use your talent for the positive," he said. "A lot of people told me I'd never make it to the top because I don't fight on Friday nights. But I did it, on my terms," Salita said.

Salita boasted that he'll be the first Jewish pugilist going for the junior-welterweight title since the 1930s, when Barney Ross wore the crown.

Khan was a teenage boxing sensation who took a silver medal for Great Britain at the 2004 Athens Olympics and became a world champ in July when he took the WBA belt from Andreas Kotelnik.

He is a devout Muslim who studies the Koran, attends a mosque on Fridays when possible and prays in his corner before the bell. He wears Union Jack trunks when he enters the ring but dedicates his fights to Brits and Muslims.

But Salita shrugged off the holy-war hype. "I have tremendous respect for Khan," he said.
 
 

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