Salita at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2010.
Salita at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 2010. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Two of the best boxers in the world are Orthodox Jews. One of them is an Israeli citizen and the other is married to an Israeli.

On November 12, Israeli citizen Yuri Foreman beat his opponent, Javier “Pelon” Gomez with a flurry of punches and a resounding first-round knock-out in a middleweight bout in Florida. It was the fourth victory in as many fights in 2013 for the rabbinical student at a Brooklyn, New York yeshiva. Foreman’s career professional boxing record is 32 wins, two losses and one no contest, with nine knockouts.

On November 9, Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita, a follower of Chabad Hasidism, met his match when he lost a 10-round welterweight fight in Brooklyn to Gabriel “Tito” Bracero. The fight was pretty even through the first eight rounds before Bracero took control, giving Salita a couple of cuts and earning the unanimous decision of the three judges.

Bracero’s career pro record is 23 wins (four by knockout) and one loss. Salita’s record now stands at 35 wins (18 knockouts), two losses and one tie.

Salita’s wife is an Israeli citizen. The couple may move to Israel when he retires. Salita is also involved in promoting other boxers.

Foreman began boxing as a young boy in Belarus, because of the anti-Semitism he experienced there, and he continued to box after immigrating to Israel with his family. He enrolled in his Brooklyn yeshiva after deciding to become a rabbi.

Salita’s family moved from the Ukraine to the United States to escape the anti-Semitism they faced in Odessa. Salita began boxing after being bullied by other children.

When Salita was a high-school student, in Brooklyn, his mother became ill with the breast cancer that eventually killed her. Salita would run in the morning, go to classes, train at his gym and then spend the nights with his mother at the hospital. It was at around that time that Salita became involved in the Chabad movement. He has said that his rabbi gave him a lot of moral support. As a tribute to his mother, Salita, whose last name is Lekhtman, uses her maiden name as his professional name.

Besides Foreman, other currently active Israeli boxers include cruiserweight Ran Nakash, who boasts a 26-1 record with 18 knockouts, and Hagar Finer, the Women’s International Boxing Federation bantamweight champion.

Roman Greenberg, who like Salita and Foreman was born in the former Soviet Union and has fought with a Star of David on his shorts, immigrated to Israel with his family as an infant. He had a 27-1 record (18 knock-outs). Greenberg was International Boxing Organization heavyweight intercontinental champion from March 2006-August 2008.