DiBella, seen here with Andy Lee, gets what I think many fans and citizens in the US get, and those titans in the bubble don't. People are tired of an every man for himself attitude in business, and in DC. Get on the same page, stop squabbling and work together.
Combustible Lou I call him, affectionately. Lou DiBella, the former HBO executive and current promoter to top five pound for pounder Sergio Martinez, can be relied upon to drop more eff bombs per sentence than just about anyone associated with the fight game when he's in a fiery mode, and that passion is something I've come to enjoy over the years. But talking to the New York based dealmaker on the phone Monday, I'm feeling like I might be seeing a little less combustion, and fewer eff bombs, and more mellow from the man.
I called DiBella to ask him what he has in store for Yuri Foreman, the returning junior middleweight who held a title belt, and has been away from the ring since 2011. DiBella talked about how he sees the Park Slope, Brooklyn-based boxer Foreman in the big picture, about the health and well being of the sport and his own resolution for the New Year.
"I was Yuri's promoter for years, I have tremendous affection for him and his family," DiBella told me. "The fights he lost to Miguel Cotto and Pawel Wolak, he was damaged goods physically. Against Cotto, he showed tremendous heart. In the 154 pound division, which is aging, and is not in my mind outstanding, we have the ability to do some things. I'm looking forward to working together."
The 32 year old hitter with a 28-2 record is coming back on a Jan. 23 DiBella NYC show against 12-8 Brandon Baue, a loser of his last five straight, so obviously all involved want to see where he's at, what he has left, before decisions about the longer-term future are made. "The guy he's coming back against does not pose a threat if Yuri is OK," DiBella said. He doesn't question how much Foreman wants it, he told me, even considering the boxer couldn't continue in his last outing, against Pawel Wolak, and was affected by the loss of longtime manager-patriarchal figure Murray Wilson, in 2010. "He is one of the more mentally strong people I've known," DiBella said. "We're working on a plan to make some noise, get another big opportunity and I have a pretty good track record, better than most people, of getting those opportunities," the promoter said.
As for himself, DiBella surprised me by delving into more personal territory when I asked if he had a resolution for 2013. "To make sounder decisions in my personal life, strike a better balance in living a healthy, productive life outside the ring, while functioning inside the sport," said the 52 year-old. "I think maybe I've given more to the sport than I've given to my personal life and I have to change that balance while I'm still a relatively young guy."
Well said, and I dare say a challenge to self that many if not most of us could make.
As for the sport as a whole, DiBella sees boxing in a time of transition. He's not sure if the power brokers are doing better, acting judiciously with the long term health of the sport in mind. "A lot of the bouts on premium cable are not so great," he said. "We need to take a look at the fanbase, it needs to get younger. I'm going to work with everybody, how I always functioned and succeeded. It would be nice if we were all able to work together, put our selfish interests aside. Because our fanbase is not getting younger."
I'm glad DiBella is willing to go there. As the boxing nation goes, so goes the nation, I could argue. Of all new revenue generated in America in 2009 and 2010, 93% of it went to the top 1%. The remaining 7% was shared by the lower 99%. We seem to be in an "every man for himself" period nationally, with the mega-monied not seeming to be willing to embrace much in the way of a "rising tide lifts all ships" mentality. If wages grow, workers have more disposable income, and that means they will buy more, and spur demand, and growth. Seems credible, no? No, say titans intent on keeping a lid on wage growth. The boxing titans often seem to be doing their thing on their own island, looking to grow their pie, without comprehending that if they cooperate, and make matches and money together, instead of sequestering themselves, they can make new fans. If they make new fans, that means the pool of eyeballs is bigger. I've long wondered why HBO and Showtime counter program each other, for example, instead of getting on the same programming page, and giving each other room to thrive. And of course, I'd pony up out of my own pocket if I could get Bob Arum and the Golden Boy crew to sit down, break bread, eat steak, and hash out a detente, so more meaningful matches could get made. (Consider that an offer, Bob, Richard and Oscar--Peter Luger's on me if we can sit and y'all try to hug it out, so the best matches can get made.)
And no, I don't dimiss myself as a dreamer; if the people, the writers, the pundits, and the fans demand this new spirit of cooperation it can and will flourish.
I do see signs, hopeful signs, that some of these ideals are being addressed. Boxing on CBS, and a week later on NBC, are green shoots, are they not?
"It's a start," DiBella agreed.
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