Brooklyn native, boxing promoter, film and television producer, former HBO Sports Executive and Minor League Baseball CEO Lou DiBella officially enters the International Boxing Hall of Fame with pride and humility
The month of June has been quite a busy and memorable one for legendary boxing promoter Lou DiBella. The Brooklyn native and former HBO Sports executive not only promoted the undisputed World Lightweight Championship fight in Australia between Devon Haney and George Kambosos Jr., but he was also officially inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York. DiBella had been selected by the Hall of Fame committee in 2020 but the ceremony didn't take place then because of COVID restrictions.
DiBella joined WBGO Studios podcast SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about his amazing career in the sports and entertainment industries.
"You know it's not very often in your career where you promote an event in front of over 40-thousand people, and in fact in my career it's the second largest crowd I've ever promoted for. I did a fight in Argentina with Sergio Martinez, it was in a monsoon and 52-thousand people still showed up. He slipped and hurt his ankle in the first round of the fight but still won. I'll never forget that night either, but look to be able to promote an event in front of 40-thousand people in Australia one week before I was getting inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, I mean there was some poetry to that."
The promoter is also a member of New York State Boxing Hall of Fame (2014) and the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame ( 2015).
Since starting DiBella Entertainment (DBE) in 2000, a full-service sports and entertainment company, Lou has worked many world-class fighters, including Sergio Martinez, Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Micky Ward, Deontay Wilder, and George Kambosos.
Lou has never refrained from offering up an honest opinion of any fight or development in the sport. DiBella gave his thoughts on the Devon Haney victory over George Kambosos Jr. in Australia and whether or not there would be a rematch.
"It was an interesting fight but it was sort of dominant by Devon Haney. Honestly, it was a masterful performance by a very young kid. The whole fight was the jab. It was the jab as a weapon. You know you hear boxing people say all the time the whole key to boxing is the jab, the jab sets everything up, the jab is sort of the places setter for everything that follows, but you really saw that particular fight. I mean Devon Haney completely controlled that fight with a jab, kept Kambosos at a distance, prevented Kambosos from landing his usual barrage of punches, really had him discombobulated in there and it was really a boxing clinic. I also don't think it was Kambosos night. You know that's one of the things about every sport and in boxing it's starker than any other sport because your whole career can change in ten seconds if you get caught with a punch. And certainly it can change in a 10-round fight. You can have a bad series in baseball, a bad month, you can have a bad year in baseball in a multi-year contract and it doesn't affect you all that much. But ten seconds in a boxing match can change your professional life and one bad performance can change your professional life. It was a really distracted and poor night for George I thought. I think if there is a rematch, and I think there will be, it will be a much better fight because basically Kambosos has to go all out and has to just pay the price for trying to walk through that jab."
DiBella's journey that led to becoming a boxing promoter is a unique one. He graduated from Regis High School in New York City and then continued his education at Tufts University wanting to be a radio announcer. Once he realized there was no money in that field, he quickly pivoted to pursue a Juris Doctor degree at Harvard Law School. After four years as a lawyer, he would land a job at HBO Sports and would eventually become a top executive there for more than a decade.
Lou is also a well-known fixture in the film industry, having worked as an Executive Producer for the film Love Ranch, as an Associate Producer on The Fighter, and making his acting debut in Rocky Balboa.
"If you're my age, I'm around 60, two things are certain. If you're in boxing, you were influenced by Muhammad Ali and you were influenced by Rocky Balboa. There's no one around my age group who was in boxing that was influenced by the Rocky films, so being able to play a promoter in a Rocky film and have that promoter named Lou DiBella, I was able to use my logo and my brand in the film, it was a great opportunity and I'll always be grateful to "Sly" (Sylvester Stallone) for that opportunity. It something I'll never forget."
His "ultimate" hero has always been Muhammad Ali and Lou had the opportunity to work and chat with "The Greatest" late in the champ's career.
"I never got to know Muhammad when he was healthy. He was always completely there, bright and engaging and kind, I picked the right hero."
Arguably, Lou may have been one of the most influential network television executives for boxing where he not only oversaw the quality of televised boxing but improved it, expanding the reach of the flagship World Championship Boxing property, long considered the gold standard, by developing and managing the innovative and groundbreaking Boxing After Dark franchise. Boxing After Dark not only created more opportunities to televise high-quality boxing for fans, but it also found unpolished gems who would be developed into major attractions. And Lou was ahead of the curve in understanding the global appeal of the sport and brought to the U.S. major stars like Prince Naseem Hamed and Lennox Lewis. Boxing on HBO became a global brand under Lou's programming stewardship and a major reason for attracting -- and retaining -- subscribers.
DiBella has also produced or executive produced numerous documentaries, such as Viva Baseball!, Magic Man, Maravilla, and Larry Flynt for President.
In this SportsJam edition, DiBella tells the story of how a scheduled General Counsel interview with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, one that was shot down by owner because even though he thought Lou's resume was impressive, he considered DiBella who was in his late 20's, was too young for the position. DiBella would eventually head over to HBO Sports after that opportunity closed quickly. Always with a passion for baseball, especially Minor Leaue Baseball, DiBella is now the President and Managing General Partner for the Richmond Flying Squirrels baseball team, He proudly wears his 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series rings, as his team is the class AA affiliate to the San Francisco Giants. In 2017, DiBella also became the CEO and Managing Owner of the Montgomery Biscuits baseball team, the AA-affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
"We're constantly winning awards as being among the best names and best logos in Minor League Baseball. The Squirrels have a huge following and our merchandise is all over the place. "Monty" The Biscuit is a cool logo. How many teams have a buttered biscuit as their logo. Everyone loves the Biscuits."
You can SEE my entire SportsJam interview with Lou DiBella here.