Big Time Boxing Back in Newcastle: Amir Khan - Dimitry Salita

Khan SalitaBy Alfie Wilkinson, poster by Mr.Longcount - “Oh no not another one”. The rumour mill was in full swing and the stories circulating fast. Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, my home town, was to stage a boxing event showcasing one of Britain’s finest. Immediately thoughts drifted back to recent times and the fiascos disguised as world class boxing we had to endure.

Then the news landed - no longer a rumour but a signed and sealed fact. Amir Khan was to fight the much talked about Dmitriy Salita, for Khan’s WBA light welterweight strap on December fifth at Newcastle’s Metro Arena.

For those non to aware, Salita, 27, is Ukrainian born, but was raised in Brooklyn, New York and fights out of the same city. Salita is a devout Jew and has forged a big fan base mainly thanks to New York’s vast Jewish community.. Comparisons have been made between Salita and the Jewish fighters of the 1930s. Is this mere fiction? The likes of Benny Leonard and Barney Ross made their legendary names challenging and beating the world’s best time and again. Although unbeaten in 31 contests with 30 wins and one draw there are qualms about the fighter known as the ‘Star of David’. The quality of his opposition, the manner in which he’s won and that shaky draw with Ramon Montano, in which Salita was twice knocked to the canvas, certainly raises doubts. Despite being the mandatory challenger to Khan’s belt many believe him to be nothing more than an average fighter over-hyped by a large fan base. However right up until their last few bouts the same was said of Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe. And for a Newcastle born and bred fight fan, with disappointing memories of supposed top class boxing at the same Arena, this match-up certainly excites me. Britain’s brightest boxing talent, at 22, not a million miles from his peak, actually fighting an opponent I believe has enough class to be worthy of his place in that ring come December fifth.

It is a ring empty for far too long. Nigel Benn and Naseem Hammed fought here in the mid 1990’s, but since then boxing at the Arena has been sub-standard and sparse. In 2001 Audley Harrison, boxing in his second pro fight, produced a slow and clumsy six round points victory over the anonymous Derek McCafferty. Then came the real let down when in 2002 Hatton and Calzaghe defended their titles on the same bill against the unknown Americans Joe Hutchinson and Tocker Pudwill respectively. Hatton won with a fourth round KO, while Calzaghe destroyed Pudwill with a TKO in the second. Not exactly the sweet science.

Since then Newcastle has only showcased a handful of small domestic bills mixed with a couple of bizarre all be it entertaining nights. The first of these was ‘The Contender UK vs USA’ in 2007. A six man team of US boxers from the hit reality TV show ‘The Contender’ took on a squad of British pro’s. Add to that the 2008, Heavyweights 2, edition of Barry Hearns’, successful winner stays on, three round competition - Prizefighter. Although at times entertaining, these circus style events weren’t the real thing.

Maybe I am becoming over excited. The vacuum of pro boxing in the North East does that to a fight fan. I’m not going to say Salita is world class or that this will be a bell to bell, swash buckling, hammer and tong bonanza – but what I will say is that the venue will be packed, the crowd boisterous and the night an enjoyable one. Khan will be eager to impress and show off his blistering hand speed in front of a fresh fan base and under the tutorage of Freddy Roach seems to improve in every outing. Salita, on the other hand, will use his own decent speed and accuracy to attempt to upset the Brit in his own country, and quell those rumours that he is nothing more than an average fighter.

The outcome is not nearly as important to me as it would have been if this fight was booked for London, Manchester or any other city in the world. Just to see Newcastle back in the fight game, with an actual intriguing match-up is good enough for me - and here’s hoping my city has many more nights of big time boxing to come.

Article posted on 08.10.2009

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