Already a neighborhood celebrity as an undefeated Jewish boxer living in Brooklyn, Dmitriy Salita's local cachet has grown even more since shooting began on 'Ring Life.' Nowadays people stop him on the street, wanting to know more about the show and his latest fight, a unanimous decision over Derrick Campos on the Calzaghe-Jones undercard at Madison Square Garden. Salita had hoped for a knockout, but the fight was just his second in 19 months, and he felt the ring rust. Nevertheless, that victory raised his record to 30-0-1. The 26-year-old Salita is ranked third in the world by one sanctioning body and hopes to get a title shot next year. Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Dmitriy moved at the age of 9 to Brooklyn, where he was exposed to Orthodox Judaism and now adheres strictly to Jewish Law. His boxing dream is to become the first Jewish world champion since Mike Rossman won a title three decades ago.
What was it like moving about your community with an HBO camera following you?
The first episode was shot in Crown Heights, and it was during the Sukkot holiday season. Everybody was really excited about it. Several Jewish web sites here posted stories about the shooting. 'Ring Life' was the video of the day on crownheights.info.
Some of it was shot while I was driving a car with a cameraman inside with me. People who saw me with the camera would beep their horns and wave.
Jewish Pride is important to you. What effect do you think your newfound visibility will have in that area?
Historically, boxing has been an ethnic-driven sport. Latin fans are driving the sport today, and somebody like Manny Pacquiao has got the support of his whole country. In the Philippines Manny is like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Barack Obama all rolled into one.
Some Jewish people who are not connected will have seen the episodes, and it's going to make them feel good about being a Jew, and hopefully give them a sense of pride.
Now that you've been filmed jogging on the boardwalk, do you think you're going to be like Rocky Balboa and have kids from your neighborhood trying to run with you?
I get that once in a while. Kids will try to run with me a little, but they can't keep up. I take it as a compliment people want to run with me.
How did your religious leader from Chabad react when you first asked him if HBO could shoot you during a prayer session?
He jumped right in! He was super excited. Chabad uses every media available to speak the word of God. All the rabbis in Crown Heights were very favorable toward the filming. They feel the more media coverage Judaism gets the better.
Does having all these people in Brooklyn rooting for Dmitriy Salita put extra pressure on you to keep winning?