Yesterday marked 20 years since the first episode of the dramatic behemoth “The Sopranos” came onto screens.
After a few episodes kicked in, and word spread, a viral sensation was born, and Monday morning water cooler discussions more often touched on Richie’s latest wretchedness, “Big Pussy’s” stealth actions, Ralphie’s hijinks, Paulie’s wisecracks, etc….Fans understood they were front and center for a rarity; when a filmed production can simultaneously entertain as well as educate you, in a thoroughly provocative and yet edgy manner. Life lessons in hour long chunks, this was a tasty medicine for the mind and now and again the soul.
Decades later, the material stands up, and a new generation of citizens are taking in the complicated existence of mob boss Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini, and his families. The writing and performances and messaging is still able to provoke thought and discussion, 20 years after David Chase’s vision came to life.
Boxing promoter and former fighter Dmitriy Salita was moved to ponder his take on the lead character, played by Gandolfini, who died in 2013. Like most all of us males, Salita was transfixed by the ways and means of Tony, who mixed volcanic passion, a defective moral compass, along with warmer traits of character which most all of us revere. He was able to look with kind eyes at animals, and many human animals, including his two children, who struggled with the knowledge of their fathers’ glaring imperfections. How Tony dealt with business associates, how he confronted challenges, with a mix of machismo and intermittent insight into self, which included regular visits to a shrink, informed to one degree or another many of us who anticipated Sunday nights with a measure of anticipatory glee. I asked Salita, who handles heavyweight contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller and women’s pound for pound ace Claressa Shields, to share his POV on what Gandolfini, pictured with Salita at a charity event, meant to him.
“I met James Gandolfini at an event in NYC some years ago called Children of Chernobyl,” Salita told me. “I was active in my professional boxing career and got invited to support this cause. Mr Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano was a man that needed no introduction and gave of his time to participate and support this cause. James was a boxing fan and I recall we talked about the sport, some fights I had coming up. His show was on HBO and HBO boxing like the Sopranos was at the top of my watch list. I was a big fan of his show and it was an honor to meet one of the greatest actors of our generation!”
Salita’s rise in the promoter ranks has been rather meteoric; and no, that hasn’t come about because he channels Tony’s combustible side. His baby face and low key but ultra persistent manner are helping move talents like Shields and Miller…
..to heights that any and all promoters within the fight game sphere would be proud to point to. I took the opportunity also to see what sort of update Salita has regarding Miller; rumor mill says maybe “Big Baby” fights Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium in England in April. True or false?
“That has not been discussed,” said Salita, referring to any such plans, which would be hashed out along with AJ’s promoter, England’s Eddie Hearn. Check back for specifics on what Miller’s next play is likely to be…
Listen to the Everlast “Talkbox” podcast for lunch, if you like….This ep features WBC boss Mauricio Sulaiman sharing intimate details on his near-death experience last summer.