By Jason Hutt, Director of ORTHODOX STANCE, a feature length documentary about Dmitriy Salita.
I’m writing to let you know that Dmitriy unfortunately lost his world title fight this past Saturday night against Amir Khan and wanted to share some of my experience and thoughts with you.
I joined a few dozen of Dmitriy’s closest friends, advisors and supporters in Newcastle to attend the Thursday press conference at St. James Park (home of the Newcastle United soccer team), the Friday weigh-in, and Shabbat dinner at Team Salita’s hotel. The British press delighted in Dmitriy’s wit and charm and as we ate dinner and conversed on Friday night, he felt relaxed and confident.
The stadium was packed Saturday night with 10,000 rabid Khan fans, many of whom lofted verbal and physical shots at Team Salita during the walk to the ring. Dmitriy has had a reputation as a slow starter and Khan’s first power punch sent him to the canvas. He got right back up but as a good fighter does, Khan pounced on the opportunity and followed up with a flurry of punches that sent Dmitriy into a defensive posture and a touch of the knee to the canvas (a second knockdown), followed shortly by a defensive crouch on the ropes and a fight stoppage by the referee.
Many fighters look nervous during the first minute of a big fight and suffer a quick knock down but are able to withstand the pressure and settle into the fight. Watching the replay showed that the first knockdown was the only hard shot Dmitriy took. But Khan, to his credit, never gave Dmitriy the opportunity to stick around and build confidence.
Fortunately Dmitriy left the ring unhurt but the event had a strange, bewildering effectâ€”like it never really happened. Dmitriy once told me, â€œBoxing’s not like basketball or any other team sport. If you’re not feeling great or having an off night, you can’t pass the ball to another player.â€ Like a runner or swimmer getting disqualified, it was over before it started. There was no single knockout punch that he didn’t get up from, simply an overly defensive withdraw from Khan’s pressure that mandated the fight be stopped. Afterward, we were all left scratching our heads and exchanging â€œwhat if heâ€ and â€œmaybe if heâ€ statements but none of it mattered.
I shot in the locker room before and after the fight and as we left the arena the shock turned to disappointment. It was going to be hard to win a fight on the road against a very good opponent, but we all wanted Dmitriy to have a good showing. However an interesting thing happened when we returned to the hotel. A few dozen supporters had taken the train up from London after Shabbat and we were told that they were gathering upstairs in a hotel conference room. My camera was all packed up but I took it back out.
I followed Dmitriy up the desolate hotel stair well and into the packed conference room where he was greeted to thunderous cheers and applause. A few people made toasts and Dmitriy smiled and joked. He raised a glass and as he thanked everyone for their support, I momentarily forgot about the fight and was reminded of the impact Dmitriy has had on so many different people in so many different ways, and realized that the result of a single boxing match wasn’t going to change that.