For Brooklyn born and Sea Cliff, Long Island resident Lou DiBella, the Sweet Science has brought him full circle.
From VP of HBO Sports when their boxing brand was television’s best, to becoming a major boxing promoter, to a TV and film producer, to managing owner of two minor league baseball teams, the 62-year-old DiBella was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY the weekend of June 9-12.
Although he’s going into the Hall, DiBella is still active in the boxing scene. His unified lightweight champ George Kambosos Jr. lost a defense of his three titles on June 5 in Melbourne, Australia against Devin Haney, the WBC champ, on ESPN (DiBella says Kambosos Jr. will exercise a rematch clause). Then DiBella promoted a Saturday night fight card at the Turning Stone Casino for Showtime during Hall of Fame weekend.
Yes, he’s a busy man.
Still, DiBella is highly critical of the sport that he says, “is in my blood.”
“When I was making fights at HBO in the ‘80s to the early 2000s, promoters worked more with other promoters,” he recalls, “and there wasn’t the issue of exclusivity with the network. If a fight was big enough, you found a way to make it [happen].”
Yet, the sport has stagnated with time.
“Boxing has not evolved at all. It’s never had a stable consistent television model,” says the former TV exec. “The problems boxing had in the ‘90s are the same problems boxing had in the 2000s and the problems are not any better in 2022.”
How do you fix it?
“The problem with boxing is there is no commissioner,” declares DiBella. “There is nobody overseeing the entire sport.
“What’s wrong with boxing … the ratings organizations … the systems of judging,” he says getting on a roll. “How many times do you see the same judges make the same bad decisions?”
Government intervention is not the answer according to DiBella.
“I don’t see boxing self-regulating. It could use some kind of governing. Some of the organizations do great things and some should be investigated. The system as it is, is inadequate. I don’t see government regulation working,” he says.
Maybe if the powers that run boxing – the big-time promoters – could get together to fix the sport?
“That’s not going to happen,” he declares, matter-of-factly.
For eleven years, DiBella made the fights as Senior Vice President of HBO Sports for the network’s “World Championship Boxing” franchise. He also created the highly popular “Boxing After Dark” series.
After leaving HBO Sports, DiBella went out on his own and created DiBella Entertainment in 2000. Now he promotes fights and launched the monthly “Broadway Boxing” series in 2003.
He expanded his empire by producing documentaries and films. He was an associate producer for “The Fighter” which won two Academy Awards. He even made his acting debut in “Rocky Balboa.”
DiBella is the President and Managing General Partner of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Class AA team of the San Francisco Giants, and also CEO and Managing Owner of the Montgomery Biscuits, AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
DiBella received three World Series rings from the Giants for their championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
“Thank God I’m the managing owner of two baseball teams,” laments DiBella. “I love boxing and it’s in my blood. It’s like family and boxing is part of my family, but it’s dark man, and it’s a world unto itself.
“Minor league baseball is a safe place for me. It gives me something else to counterbalance boxing. Boxing makes you face how dark everything can be and how great everything can be.”
The sport is not what it once was, and everybody knows it.
“It’s a niche sport and if the UFC doesn’t watch out, they’re going to be a niche sport too,” he says, but there is hope. “Niche sports can make a lot of money if you have enough of a base. However, there is no excuse for boxing not being better than boxing is right now.
“Boxing at its best is compelling programming. On our best night, we’re better than anything. Here’s our problem, we don’t have enough of our best nights and when we do, we f--- it up with a horrible scorecard. We don’t put our best foot forward enough. But when we do, boxing is bigger and better than anything.”
The recent battle between lightweight champ Katie Taylor and Brooklyn’s Amanda Serrano, proved that.
“On our best nights, we do huge business. The Taylor-Serrano fight sold out the Garden and did a huge number (1.5 million worldwide streams on DAZN),” points out DiBella, who’s married to wife Devin as they raise their puppy Topolina.
“There’s a lot of tension and discord in boxing in 2022,” acknowledges DiBella, who could be talking about the country. “Boxing’s social media reflects it. There is so much divisiveness.
“For a niche sport, it’s a pretty divided niche. Divided niches don’t make as much money as unified niches.”
As much as DiBella criticizes his sport, he still appreciates it.
“My criticism of this sport is out of love, not out of hate,” he states. “I’m not a hater.”