By Matt Richardson
Welterweight contender Dmitriy Salita remembers the words clearly. “You know how to take care of yourself now,” Salita’s longtime corner man and trainer Jimmy O’Pharrow told him before his two most recent fights. O’Pharrow, long a staple in the career of Salita, did not attend the former title challenger’s last two bouts.
“Jimmy O, the great man and visionary that he was, did not work my corner for the last two fights and prepared me to be functional when such a day would come,” Salita recalls. “He called me before my last two fights and told me that he will be at home a few miles away praying for me.”
The prayers worked because Salita won both fights; a unanimous decision in September and a third round TKO in December.
But then, in late February, that day came and O’Pharrow passed away at age 85.
It was a difficult blow for Salita to take. O’Pharrow, the scion of the Starret City Boxing Club in Brooklyn, New York, had showed him the ropes of the sweet science – from the amateur days in the Golden Gloves to a title shot at junior welterweight.
“Jimmy’s passing has been a very hard thing for me personally,” says Salita. “But it’s important to keep his memory alive by making sure that his message and the work he put in it for over 30 years lives on and prospers. Jimmy O lives through Starret City Boxing Club,” Salita says.
Salita (32-1, 17 KO’s) will attempt to keep the message alive this Wednesday night when he returns to the ring to box Ronnie Warrior, Jr. (13-4-1, 4 KO’s) at the Oceana in Brooklyn. It many ways, the fight is the start of a new chapter in Salita’s career.
“Training for this fight went well,” he says. “This is my third fight in eight months – the busiest I have been since I turned pro. I know that I needed this kind of a schedule to get in top form and ready for the big fights.”
Salita says his preparation has been key. “I started training at Universal Boxing gym in Queens, New York with Nirmal Lorick. That is my base. Then I went down to Florida to train… spent about 10 days in Andy Lee and Miguel Cotto’s camp. Then I came back to Universal and finished the last three weeks at Kronk in Detroit with Jayvon “Sugar” Hill and help from Emanuel Steward.”
Salita says he knows the training will pay dividends in the fight. “I know that my opponent comes from a fighting family and his dad was a good fighter. I saw some tapes and he is a tall southpaw that can box. I know that he will come to fight as everyone does that fights me.”
Still, come fight night, there will be a vacancy in the fighter’s corner. Salita knows this and readily admits he still misses his former trainer. But he’s confident going forward with his career. “He mentally prepared me to be on my game without him physically being in my corner,” he says.
“It’s important that people are aware how much a success Starret City Boxing Club is and how many thousands of kids it helped become better people through boxing,” Salita says. “That was Jimmy’s vision and he lives through the continuous work of the gym,” he says.
“This show is in Jimmy’s memory.”
*Salita, who lost a title shot to Amir Khan in 2009, has big hopes for 2011. “I plan on getting a big fight and fighting for a title this year,” he says. “As a promotional company this is our third show and we are excited about the future. We are doing another show May 19th at Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan in association with Box NYC.”
“My goal is to keep winning and staying active and progressing on all fronts.”
*The fight will be the fourth recent fight at which Salita has fought in the 147-pound division after a career spent mostly at lighter weights. “I am a welterweight now,” he says.
*Also on the card: former WBA welterweight title-holder Luis Collazo and former Golden Gloves champion Rafael Vasquez. Tickets, ranging from $125.00 to $40.00, can be purchased at dsalita.com