By Dmitriy Salita
Professional and amateur boxing have many similarities and differences. Although I have only 6 pro fights (6-0), I can share my experiences thus far. I turned pro at 19 years of age. Many important thoughts went through my head before making this very important decision. Let’s go back a little bit…….
Ever since I was a young kid and started training, I always wanted to make it in professional boxing and become a world champion. I was fortunate to grow up in NY, which is very populated in the sport. Right in front of my eyes I saw guys like Zab Judah, Shannon Briggs, Bryan Adams, Vivian Harris, etc. I saw the end of their amateur career, and how they moved on to pro careers. All of these boxers had one thing in common. They had good amateur careers, not great, but good. They won the Nationals and the NY Golden Gloves, which on the East coast is a very prestigious tournament. To me, these two accomplishments gave them a good push right into the professionals. I wanted to accomplish those goals before I turned pro. This would give me enough, but not too much amateur experience to take the next step. In the year 2000 before going into the Golden Gloves, I said to myself, this would be my last amateur tournament, and after this I am turning pro.
I did understand that I was 19 and still maturing physically. In professional boxing I would have to fight men. There is no T-shirt, the gloves are smaller, and there is no headgear. I said to myself I need to add a strength and conditioning coach to my team to get my body stronger, to hit harder, and to absorb the physical stress which comes with pro boxing. I got together with Dave “Scooter” Honig, who is a well-known conditioning expert in NY. Before I had my first pro fight, we worked about 5 months. Besides the physical strength I gained, it also gave me mental confidence. Then I was ready.
From my experiences in pro boxing (compared with amateur), you need to be mentally strong and feel comfortable with the people around you, the people guiding your career. This is very important. I signed with Top Rank and felt very at ease with them from day one. It is crucial to have a good relationship with your promoter. It is all one team and you as a fighter must have peace of mind before entering the ring. Another important thing I want you to understand before turning pro is professional boxing is not like basketball, baseball, or soccer. You can’t just say, “Let me try it”. If you want to do it you have to be 110% serious. You also have to be ready to your best ability in basketball, but if you lose, okay. There isstill another game next week. In boxing if you don’t take it seriously you have the risk of getting permanently damaged, and forget much more than you played a game last week. In my opinion, you should not do this to say that he/she was a professional boxer. It is DANGEROUS. You must do this with complete and pure commitment to be successful.
The objective in amateur boxing is different than in the pros. In the amateurs, boxers don’t necessarily try to set up shots to take you out. Instead they just try to score points by throwing a lot of punches. In the professionals since there is more time, the objective is different. You have to slow down your opponent, whereas in the pros I found that many guys concentrate on hitting the body just as much as hitting the head.
As I was finishing up my amateur career they changed the bouts from 3, 3-minute rounds to 4, 2 -minute rounds. So, for me the transition was not that much different to the pros. In the gym I would spar more than 4 rounds on different occasions because my goal was always professional boxing. My training has become lengthened physical conditioning to increase stamina. In the amateurs you concentrate more on bursts of energy. Throwing many combinations one after the other. In pro boxing you will have a longer training session where you go from one station to another to another without breaks. Basically you are working on advancing your conditioning so you can go 12 rounds. That is in my mind when I train..... I run 6:30 in the morning. The runs vary from longer slower paced runs to shorter more intense runs. I try to change my route every so often to give my body and mind a physical and mental change. After I run I have breakfast, go home and rest for a few hours, have a healthy snack, and go to the gym. After the gym, I try to have dinner about 4 hours before I go to sleep.
Scooter and I build different strength programs from fight to fight. The basic idea is to be able to hit harder, work on stamina, and deal with the physical stress a pro fight can have. We work upper and lower body, work on different stamina exercises while running and cross training. Scooter also recommends various supplements for me to take. These often depend on my last fight performance and the time of the year it is. For example, in winter I would take more immune boosters. I have been with Scooter for about 15 months. I have trained with Jimmy O’Pharrow since I am 13. He brought me up through the ranks and guided my amateur career. I few months before I turned pro I also got with Hector Roca, who has trained 7 world champions. I knew I needed his expertise in the corner and in the gym. His assistant is Orlando Corrasquillo, another very experienced trainer, who also works the mitts with me.
Training for my pro debut, I always kept thinking, “What is it like without headgear. How does it feel?” I realized that you hit the bag, shadow box, and hit the mitts ALL without headgear. So, you are use to it already and it is no big deal. I like it without headgear. You feel you can move your head and body faster. Also fighting without headgear improves your eyesight. You can see punches more easily. You also don’t have to worry about fixing it while you are fighting. That use to happen to me. As the fights would go on, the headgear would slide around my head. It would become uncomfortable and give my opponents opportunities to take advantage. Now that is one thing I no longer have to worry about.
The gloves are smaller than they were in amateur boxing and they are made differently. In amateurs when you open your glove you can almost cover your whole face. The pro glove is different. It is the size of my hand and it does not have as much padding over the knuckle area. Also, the padding is of a different material. The pro gloves feel lighter and smaller. YOU CAN FEEL THE DIFFERENCE.
I am in the locker room before my pro debut. I look at myself in the mirror and get “that feeling’ for which there is no word. It actually felt quite good; like a Gladiator. I am working hard and enjoying my professional career. Just like anything else, if you love doing it, if you love waking up in the morning, going to train and going to run, then you found what you are.
Dmitriy Salita won 6 NY State tournaments, 6 inner city tournaments, US Nationals, NY Golden Gloves, and the “Sugar Ray Robinson Award for Outstanding Boxing”. His amateur record was 54-4. He started boxing at the age of 13 at the Starret City Boxing Club. As a pro, he is 6-0 and currently trains at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, NY.