Dmitriy Salita, the previously unbeaten Jewish boxer who was floored by Muslim fighter Amir Khan in just 76 seconds on Saturday night, said this week that antisemitic chanting may have cost him the fight.
Speaking exclusively to the JC, Salita, who won his previous 31 bouts, said: “It was over before it started. I was in great shape and well prepared but the antisemitic chanting left me completely overwhelmed.”
Rabbi Dovid Lewis, of Newcastle United Hebrew Congregation, accompanied Salita, wearing his traditional Magen David-decorated shorts, from his dressing room to the ring. He said: “We were shocked at the vitriolic abuse shouted at Dmitriy. It was antisemitic swearing and spitting with a lot of pushing and pulling.”
A man from Manchester, who was wearing a kippah and sitting among the Khan supporters, suffered a cut face when a can was flung at him along with antisemitic abuse.
“After 76 seconds it was all hell let loose,” said the 45-year-old.
“Four guys were being held back by their friends from jumping on me. They were really surging to get me with hate on their faces. They were shouting f---ing Jew, any swear word you can think of, and making any gesture you can think of. I’ve never been so frightened in my life. There was hate I’ve never experienced in England before.
“I think some were using Khan as a trophy and giving themselves a lot of pride that they’ve beaten the Jews.”
The Ukrainian-born boxer, who now studies at a Chabad yeshiva in Brooklyn, said: “The experience of fighting away from home, and the crowd being so against me, left me shocked.”
Rabbi Lewis said: “Dmitriy was stunned, but not hurt. He showered, put on fresh clothes and his tzitzes, and we learned into the night.”
On Tuesday, Salita was reunited with his new wife, Alona, whom he married in New York in September. The couple flew to Israel. Salita was invited by the immigration agency, Nefesh b’Nefesh, to spend a week in Israel, and he is said to be considering aliyah. He said: “I’m going to Israel to reflect. Everything that happens is for a reason.”