Dmitriy Salita is on the verge of realizing his boxing dream. But before he gets a chance to fight for the world super lightweight title, he has one hurdle left to clear.
Salita (29-0-1, 16 knockouts) must defeat veteran Raul Munoz tonight in Primm to keep his status as the WBA's mandatory No. 1 challenger. Salita headlines a combined boxing-mixed martial arts card promoted by Roy Jones Jr.'s Square Ring Promotions at the Star of the Desert Arena.
The card will have one other boxing match -- Jose Pacheco against Mario Gonzalez in a four-round bantamweight rematch of their April 17 fight that Pacheco won by unanimous decision -- and six MMA bouts. The first bell is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
"There's pressure," Salita, 27, said of not only headlining tonight's card but making sure he doesn't squander his opportunity down the road. "It's a big fight. But I box because I want to be great and I want to be a world champion."
It is Salita's first Nevada appearance since 2003 when he fought at Mandalay Bay. Since then, the majority of his fights have been in New York and New Jersey, where promoters can tap into the large Russian communities that support Salita.
"It's good to be back," Salita said. "I had a lot of success early in my career in Las Vegas, so I'm glad to have people who haven't seen me in a while see how far I've come as a fighter."
Salita, who emigrated from the Ukraine to the United States with his family when he was 9 to escape religious persecution, has embraced his Jewish roots. He's strictly observant, so it meant pushing back his weigh-in Saturday until after sundown because of the Sabbath. Salita weighed in at the MGM Grand Garden during UFC 98, using a scale in a dressing room with Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Keith Kizer supervising.
Salita said his Judaism has been a big asset to his boxing.
"Spiritually, it has helped me tremendously," Salita said. "I'm a minority in boxing, and with it comes a responsibility to represent my people and be a good role model."
As a youngster in Odessa, Salita encountered lots of anti-Semitism and got into his share of altercations. But he learned how to fight, and living in America, he has been able to practice his religion and develop as a fighter. It is a delicate balance but one he has managed over the years.
"I've had one of the best boxing educations in the world," Salita said of his training in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Jimmy O'Pharrow. "The sport of boxing is an international language."
A win over Munoz (20-11-1, 15 KOs) will give Salita his long-awaited opportunity to fight for a world title. He would face the winner of the June 27 fight in London between WBA champion Andriy Kotelnik and Amir Khan.
"I was hoping for a title shot sooner," Salita said. "But I've been patient. I just want to make sure I'm ready and at my best when it comes."
• DUELING CARDS -- Top Rank and Golden Boy will go head-to-head with fight cards June 27, with both featuring title fights.
The Golden Boy card, which will be at Staples Center in Los Angeles and televised by HBO, will match Victor Ortiz against Marcos Maidana for the interim WBA super lightweight title. Also on the card is a rematch between Chris John and Rocky Juarez, who fought to a draw Feb. 28.
On the Top Rank card, which will be in Atlantic City, Juan Manuel Lopez will defend his WBO junior featherweight crown against Olivier Lontchi, and WBO bantamweight champ Fernando Montiel will meet Eric Morel.
Also on the card is a fight between former junior welterweight world champion Paulie Malignaggi and Mike Alvarado, and one between Vanes Martirosyan and Andrey Tsurkan.
The card will be televised on pay per view.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.