The promoter featured a massive grin after Martinez beat Kelly Pavlik in April 2010. His smiles have been a bit wider since Martinez emerged as a P4P player. (Hogan)When Sergio Martinez shocked the boxing world, if not himself and his crew, and knocked the consciousness out of Paul Williams in Atlantic City last November, the power grid in boxing shifted more than a bit.
Martinez (47-2-2 with 26 KOs) is promoted by Lou Dibella, the former HBO exec who left that nest and has been making a go in the promotional waters since 2000. Dibella is right there in the mix with the Great Whites in the business, Arum, King and Golden Boy, but he's set himself apart, to a degree, because he doesn't eat, sleep, live and breathe the sport like maybe some of the others do.
And let me be succinct…to me, this is a virtue.
Dibella, who lives in New York City, makes time to pursue other interests and passions, whether it be as the owner of a minor league baseball franchise the Richmond Flying Squirrels (AA-Giants); as the executive producer of the 2009 film, “Love Ranch,” which starred Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci and received a theatrical release; or as a consumer of live rock music, of acts like Furthur, featuring ex Grateful Dead players Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
I sat down with Dibella and picked his brain recently. Mainly, I was curious to see if the fact that he promotes a guy who can plausibly lay claim to being the top boxer on the planet, pound for pound, has changed his life to any large degree, and if moving forward he seeks that top dog slot currently occupied by Arum, and coveted by Oscar De La Hoya and Richard Schaefer.
“I do have a great deal of satisfaction, because no one believed in Sampson Lewkowicz and Sergio, and I did. And no, I don't really want that number one slot,” he told me. “Right now Richard and I are friendly, but when we were sparring he called me a “mom and pop' company. I don't view that as an insult. I probably have a closer personal contact than most promoters do with their fighters. When you're too big, you can't have that. I'm happy being in the situation I'm in now. I like being “small.”
So, there's no sense of vindication in play?
“No. It's nice to be with a guy this good, and this loyal. It does give the company a lift. So does having Berto. The undue criticism he's had to deal with ends with his next fight, against Victor Ortiz. Having guys like this gives us more international recognition and exposure. Sergio has the ability to be the poster boy for HBO,” Dibella told me. “He's the one guy with amazing ability who can fight regularly. He loves to fight, and he's in the prime of his career.”
OK, we all realize Lou's got a dog in the hunt…but what about it, is the Argentine-Spaniard Sergio the best and brightest boxer in the game today?
“Yeah, he is right now,” Dibella said without hesitation. “The most talented fighter alive is Floyd, and he might be an alltime great, but he hasn't been active in a year. Manny's great but he's been carefully matched, and he's been moved around weight classes skillfully. Every fight Sergio has taken has been huge recently. I have to say, I was shocked Ring magazine had Nonito Donaire ahead of Sergio in their rankings.”
And Dibella expects even greater things for Martinez in the next few years. He told me he could see Martinez fighting the king at 168, when the king comes to the fore, in maybe a year and a half. The New York-based dealmaker said he's been talking to the Felix Sturm people, about a fight pitting Martinez against the WBA middleweight titlist. That fight could happen in June or July. Martinez loves to fight, isn't one of these dabblers who wants to lace 'em up once or twice a year for big bank, and spend the rest of his time waltzing around, playing big shot.
Peter Manfredo (age 30; 37-6) is another possibility for Martinez. The net started buzzing when his name was floated. Those opposed to the idea say the Rhode Islander would have no chance, and hate the idea. Dibella points out that this is a business, and that he could probably squeeze about 15,000 people into the Dunkin Donuts center, the arena in Rhode Island. “Hey, in his last fight, Sergiy Dzinziruk put up a hell of an effort,” Dibella says. “Sergio got touched up. He's 36, he can't do that every fight. Manfredo is also a really decent guy, and it'd be great to give him a shot. Also, he's a lot better at 160 than at 168. Sergio's got to be allowed to be a favorite in a fight!”
SPEEDBAG Dibella and I touched on the rapidly approaching Pacquiao-Mosley fight. I expressed some amazement that so many folks are coming out of the woodwork and giving Mosley a solid chance at an upset. I see no chance of that happening, and asked Lou his take. “Mosley is one of the best liked guys out there. And he can punch, so this helps explain why some of the sentiment has changed. People are thinking, If Mosley lands that big shot he landed on Mayweather, on Pacquiao, then maybe Pacquiao gets stopped. I still think Pacquiao is a prohibitive favorite. I can't see Mosley having enough left in the tank to beat Manny.”
—If Berto does what I expect, and gets the better of Victor Ortiz on April 16th in Connecticut, what might come next? “We won't probably get Pacquiao or Cotto, but we're not afraid of anyone,” Dibella said. ” If Mike Jones wants to step up, and people are willing to pay, we'll do that.”