A kosher boxing match with your potato latkes

Dec 1, 2009 5:06 PM

Khan/Salita set for (aptly) Chanukah

It is somewhat amusing to discover that next Saturday in Newcastle, Dmitriy Salita, born in Odessa, the Ukraine, and now living in Brooklyn, the one and only, will try to become the second world boxing champion within the span of less than a month to be of the Jewish persuasion, following Yuri Foreman, who won a junior middleweight title on the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard against Daniel Santos.

Once upon a time, from Slingshot David to the immortal Benny Leonard, Jewish fighting champions were not as unusual as kosher bacon. But unless you count Zab Judah, an Israelite, it seems that there hasn’t been a Hebrew scholar with a world championship belt for a quarter-century, or since Saoul Mamby – who didn’t look Jewish, either.

Which leads me to the last page of a book my mother once bought me, an anthology of Jewish humor.

"What’s green, hangs on the wall and whistles?"

"I give up."

"A herring."

"A herring is green?"

"You can paint it green."

"A herring hangs on the wall?"

"You can nail it to a wall."

"A herring whistles?

"So, nu, it doesn’t whistle."

So, nu, Dmitriy Salita can’t fight much.

So that’s maybe why, on one off-shore site, Amir Khan is the 8-1 favorite in their WBA junior welterweight title bout in Khan’s home country of England. I mean, we’re not talking King Khan here. The 2004 Olympic silver medallist, an immediate star in England, was only 15 months ago knocked out by the ordinary Breidis Prescott, who is fighting on the Newcastle undercard.

Since that loss, Khan has switched to Freddie Roach for training and is coming into this fight off many weeks of working out in Los Angeles and Las Vegas with the star of Roach’s roster, Manny Pacquiao. That won’t hurt, but may be less of a factor here than the fact that Salita won’t hurt much, either.

Salita can’t punch. The 16 knockouts on his 30-0-1 pro record are more attributable to clever matchmaking than to any higher power. Khan’s chin may not be entirely of glass, but to take the 5-1 buyback odds on Salita seems a bit of a reach. The fight takes place on the second night of Chanukah and the odds are that Salita will wind up as flat as a latke, or potato pancake like my Aunt Ettie used to make.

This seems a mismatch designed to enhance Khan’s reputation as a ticket-seller in England, where I understand, not much has been made, thankfully, of this Muslim-Jewish matchup.

Unless there’s a last-minute sale, it will not be shown on American TV.

Just as well. There is a much more important match or two coming on HBO this Saturday. Paul Williams, who can whistle AND punch, was supposed to have been challenging Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight title. But the 160-pound champion’s hand injury put that off (Pavlik is well enough, however, to fight Miguel Espino a couple of weeks later) and since Williams can’t entice any of the top welterweights into the ring, the best his promoters could do was come up with a junior middleweight titlist in the capable and professional hands of Sergio Martinez, an Argentine based in Madrid.

But it’s an over-the-weight battle, with neither of their 154-pound belts on the line, and while Martinez’s only loss was a 2000 stoppage by Antonio Margarito, this matchup of southpaws should not be a betting fight. Williams, it says here, is that good. Put it this way: while everyone anticipates the welterweight matchup between Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather Jr., neither of boxing’s two best pound-for-pounders will ever get in the ring at 147 pounds against Williams, a 6-foot-1 inch southpaw with an 82-inch reach (think Larry Holmes), amazingly fast hands, an incredible work rate and mighty chin.

On the HBO undercard, it will also be interesting to see – not bet – how Chris Arreola rebounds from the thrashing he took from Vitali Klitschko. Arreloa is matched against Brian Minto, an earnest plodder, and should prevail easily.

Also on the card this coming week is a double-header from Australia and Philadelphia designed to lead to the long-forgotten rematch between two old warriors, Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins. Jones has the more daunting task on the Versus cable TV show, facing Danny Green in Sydney. Jones is a 7-2 favorite, which is too high for me to waste money on. I’d rather buy a herring – like the Hopkins fight with Enrique Ornelas as the opponent.

Pickled in cream sauce, please.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Michael Katz