By Matt Richardson
Photos: Emily Harney
Lou DiBella had an interesting 2015.
The New York-based boxing promoter continued to mine new talent and promote shows, small and large, throughout the country. He was also closely involved with the expansion of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and the return of boxing to network television. The former Senior Vice President of HBO Sports has always been a candid observer of the “The Sweet Science” and, as such, his perspective on the sport as it enters 2016 is an important one.
“I think 2015 was an interesting year,” he told Fightnews last week. “I wouldn’t say it was a bad year. With PBC there was more boxing on TV than ever before. Even though it wasn’t a great fight people got the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. It happened. That was the good news and the bad news. I think probably more people saw boxing in 2015 than have seen a boxing match in years. So, just from a standpoint of exposure, I think that there was a lot of it.”
“As is usually the case,” he continued, “it was a mixed bag. It could get better but I think that there were some reasons to be positive. Boxing got more attention in 2015 than it’s gotten for many years previously and had Mayweather-Pacquiao been a great fight and everything else just stayed the way it was I think we’d be talking about what an amazing year it was. And by the way, there were a lot of great fights and then there were some not so great fights. But, overall I think it was a positive year and I think had the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in the ring been as big of an event as it was outside of the ring then I think we would be talking in superlatives right now even with the same set of facts.”
DiBella is cautiously hopeful for a better and more productive year for the game. Going into year two of PBC, that should, in theory, be a good thing for boxing fans.
“I would expect anything where there are smart people involved and there are opportunities to make adjustments and changes to make things better, I would always expect that in year two something would be better than in year one,” DiBella stated. “I do anticipate that it will be a more successful year than even the first one for PBC and I think that there’ll be a lot of big fights and a lot of major match-ups and some very good programming in year two.”
“I think with respect to anything that’s new there are always ways you realize you waste in certain places or you move things around and you make adjustments and changes to better the product, to better the brand,” he explained. “I expect those kind of adjustments will be made and I expect it will be a better 2016 than 2015. But I think 2015 in a lot of ways was somewhat historical for the amount of boxing that was successfully shown to so many eyeballs and to all the platforms that were televising boxing that hadn’t televised it a long time. So I think all that stuff was positive.”
It’s not just with the PBC, however, where the promoter sees encouraging potential.
“There are a lot of big fights that can be made,” he said. “Will they all be made? No, but I think there are a lot of very good fights that could be made. I think Canelo and Golovkin and Golovkin and Ward are fights I’d like to see. Stevenson and Kovalev but if that can’t happen we can build some opponents. We were talking about Edwin Rodriguez against Thomas Williams. The winner of that fight can get built into an opponent for a big match-up at 175. Part of what we have to do is build the big match-ups. And also just to make good fights. Thurman-Porter is a tremendous match-up and I think there’s a good chance that could happen this year. Somewhere down the line this year if you see Khan against Kell Brook, I think that’s a hell of a fight. There are a number of quality match-ups that can be made. And there are match-ups that are decent and OK and then you have to see what happens.”
“There are a lot of guys on the upswing,” he went on to say. “I want to see where Errol Spence goes this year and who he fights. I have Jose Pedraza fighting a mandatory in March and then I want to see him in a big fight. People keep anointing Verdejo the next big thing, well, let’s find out this year. Let him step up and fight some real guys and let’s find out because I would like to make Verdejo and Pedraza down the line. Even though they’re from the same island and they’re friendly, I would love to see that fight eventually. I’d like to see a rematch with Miura and Vargas. That was a great fight. I want to see more of Glowacki this year. I want to see where the up and coming middleweights go. I want to see where Derevyanchenko goes, where Khytrov goes, I want to see where an Antoine Douglas goes. I want to see this next generation of middleweights, of which I promote a few of them, I want to see where they go. A guy like Tureano Johnson is going to get a shot and Tureano’s earned it obviously. But now you’re hearing crazy things. You’re hearing Gabriel Rosado mentioned for Canelo. We need some new blood in the middleweight division so I want to see that developed this year. There are a lot of good fighters and potentially good fights.”
“I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen with the young guys I have. I had three guys on the ESPN top 20 prospects list and a number of my fighters appeared on prospect of the year lists all over the country and that’s really nice,” he said.
“Derevyanchenko, Khytrov and Regis Prograis are three guys that jumped ahead last year as up and coming prospects. And then when you get beyond to the contender stage I want to see Tevin Farmer get a shot in 2016. I want to see women’s boxing get on TV in 2016. I positioned Heather (Hardy) to be an attraction and I think she’s ready to get showcased. There are loads of other talented women fighters and there are loads of other American women fighters that are talented. I just signed the Serrano sisters. They’re talented girls. There are a lot of women out there who are really, really talented in various weight classes and there’s also international talent that can be brought here. So I’d like to see women’s boxing get an opportunity to be seen.”
“And then there are just a lot of good fights to be made. There are a lot of up and coming guys that are interesting. Just as an industry we have to try to put our best foot forward. We don’t have a Mayweather-Pacquiao in the works. There is nothing on the horizon like that.”
“Looking in my own group of fighters, Andy Lee needs to make a comeback this year but that’s still a wide-open division,” DiBella said of the former middleweight title-holder.
“I thought he had a bad night against Saunders. Maybe he was over trained with the number of times that fight was rescheduled and how long it dragged on. I’d like to see him return. There are other middleweights like Sergio Mora, returning. I want to see what Danny Jacobs does and I want to see how Quillin comes back, where he comes back. There’s DeGale out there at ’68. So there are guys out there at ’68 to match-up and interesting fights to be made there.”
“There are some good fighters out there. There are some charismatic guys out there; we just have to try to make some noise as an industry. I work with a lot of good fighters and I have a lot of good fighters under my promotional banner. I work with a lot of other fighters regularly that are also terrific talents.”
“I think this is an interesting year,” he said. “We just have to try to put our best foot forward.”