Lou DiBella

     There is a reason HBO is number 1 in boxing.....efficiency! 
I found that out when contacting HBO for a interview with Lou 
Dibella, the second in command at HBO behind Seth Abraham and 
the man who makes the matches for HBO. 4 hours after I had 
called HBO asking for a interview, I received a call from Mr. 
DiBella setting up a good time for a interview the following 
day. It is that kind of efficient lets get it done attitude 
that gives the fans and HBO the kind of great boxing matchups 
we have come to expect from the champions of boxing on 
television. 

     Lou DiBella is the senior vice president of HBO sports 
and runs both the "HBO Championship Boxing" and the "Boxing 
After Dark" series. He is the driving force behind the day 
to day operations at HBO's boxing offices and thus holds 
real power in the boxing world. I found him to be quick and 
above all honest in his answers and he never shied away from 
any questions I had for him.
 

 

BW: How long have you been with HBO boxing and what to this point has been
the highlight and lowlight of your stay there so far.

DiBella: I've been involved with HBO boxing for almost a decade I started 
out as the lawyer for HBO boxing and over the course of time my job 
evolved into being the primary deal maker and primary matchmaker of our 
fights. The highlight? There have been a number of them, I think whenever 
you get a great fight it is a highlight. Arturo Gatti vs. Wilson Rodriguez 
at Madison Square Garden. McKinney vs. Barrera those two fights were two 
of the first Boxing After Dark fights and they were both highlights 
because we couldn't have launched that new series with any more theatrical 
or emotional fights. The lowlight is allot of the fights I wanted to make 
over the course of the years and was not able to make. The fact that 
Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe never fought in the prime of their careers 
was a lowlight. The fact that so far we have not been able to make Lewis 
and Holyfield has been troubling. But hopefully that fight will get done 
in the next 6 to 8 months.

BW: HBO's commitment to boxing how does that work? Is there a yearly 
renewal of budget which depends on ratings or does HBO place a certain 
amount of days aside each year which it devotes to boxing.

DiBella: Every year we work out with the senior management of our company
a budget for boxing. We have a great commitment to boxing. Boxing has been 
one of our primary types of original programming for a number of years and 
boxing does very well for us. I think we are clearly the leader in 
televised boxing. We have a new advertising campaign that is going to 
begin shortly and the concept is "HBO sports the heart and soul of boxing" 
and that is what we are. I think we are the heart and soul of boxing. 

BW: What goes into choosing a fighter who appears on Boxing after dark?

DiBella: A evaluation of the fighters talents and also a determination 
that you can make a matchup for that fighter that will be pleasing T.V 
and a good solid competitive fight. You know the one thing with Boxing 
After Dark is that we are allot less concerned with the big names. You 
are not going to get the Oscar's, Roy Jones's, or Naseem Hamed's on 
Boxing After Dark. You are going to get still great fighters but guys 
whose names who are not household words and couldn't headline our prime 
time championship boxing show. I think what we look for is a terrific 
fighter who has been underexposed, who is hungry, has allot of desire 
and is going to give 110 percent when given the opportunity. So far that
has pretty much worked out on every card.

BW: Approximately how many fights do you attend during a year.

DiBella: We do probably about 30 shows a year between HBO Championship
Boxing, Boxing After Dark and TVKO. I attend pretty much all of those.
I am a huge fight fan. I love boxing as well as working in it, so I 
probably go to a good 20 or 30 other shows. So I would say somewhere 
between 50 or 60 shows a year.  

BW: This is of course is a hypothetical question. If you could have any 
one of Showtime's fighters who would it be?

DiBella: (a short pause) At this point I am not really sure who Showtimes 
fighters are? I think Ricardo Lopez is a good fighter, right now Naseem
Hamed is a HBO fighter. We are waiting so see the result of a court 
proceeding involving Felix Trinidad and we are waiting to see what happens 
there. To be honest right now there is only one answer and that is Evander 
Holyfield. I want to make Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield  but from 
what I am told Evander has no contract with Showtime. He is not a Showtime 
fighter he does have a promotional contract with Don King but he is not a 
Showtime fighter.   

BW: Recently I watched the Duran vs. Joppy farce and said to myself how 
can Showtime buy this fight! Was there ever a matchup that you didn't 
want to see but HBO said it needed to air because a certain fighter can 
draw more viewers.

DiBella: Interestingly most of the fights I have been forced to do that I 
haven't liked have been mandated by the organizations. I have done a large
number of mandatory fights that I knew going in were bad fights or fights
that shouldn't have happend. One prime example is the second time that 
Oliver McCall fought Lennox Lewis. Where he was having problems with the 
law preceding the fight, where he had problems with drugs preceding the
fight. Everyone pretty much knew he was not in a condition or shape to 
fight. We spoke out at the time and tried to stop that fight from 
happening. It happend anyway and it was a fiasco. Oliver had a breakdown 
in the ring and it was a terrible night for boxing. I was disappointed 
with Henry Akiwande vs. Lennox Lewis but then again that was a mandatory.
There have been a couple of times where I have not liked the fights that 
we have done but the majority of them have been mandatory situations. 
Or a superstar level fighter who was taking a sort of a breather kind of 
fight. I don't like doing that kind of fight. I like the sort of fights 
where it is a toss of the coin type of fight. 


BW: Everyone has seen a fighter and said to themselves "That guy is a 
future star" and for some reason he just never lived up to his potential. 
Was there a fighter like that for yourself, and it does not have to be a 
HBO fighter but someone who just never lived up to his potential.

DiBella: You know that happens with allot of people for allot of different 
reasons. I didn't expect James Toney's career to collapse after the lost
to Roy Jones. But he had all sorts of problems with weight and his career 
never got back on track and I felt bad for him because I liked James.
I was more disappointed for him than anything else. His career pretty 
much fizzled after the Roy Jones fight. I thought Barrera was going to be 
a great great fighter now he is still a young guy and maybe he can get it 
back together again. I was somewhat surprised by his two losses to Junior 
Jones. You see allot of prospects and it is very hard to judge what kind 
of professional fighter a amateur fighter or Olympian is going to be. So 
often you look at that sort of fighter and he doesn't pan out the way you 
thought he might of. But recently allot of the young fighters I have been
scouting and keeping a eye on have been doing very well. I am very happy
with the progress of David Reid, I am happy with the progress of Fernando
Vargas, happy with the progress of Floyd Mayweather. When I look at some
other young guys out there. I think Angel Mandfredy can be a terrific 
fighter and I think Shane Mosley is a future superstar.  

BW: Speaking of David Reid, HBO took a small chance on singing David Reid 
straight off his Olympic gold medal win since he was even loosing that 
fight before he landed that one big punch. Who is involved in the 
decision making process for signing a fighter to a exclusive HBO contract.

DiBella: At the time I kept a eye on David and obviously he did win the 
gold medal. My boss Seth Abraham and I discussed it and made the decision. 
Yeah he is the only gold medal winner from the United States and he is a 
pleasing fighter who has a big punch and can be a good television fighter. 
We made a decision to go after him early and I think it was the right
decision.

BW: There are some very talented and exciting fighters in the lower weights 
in Asia like Saman Sarjataroung, Joichiro Tatsuyoushi which seem to be 
largely overlooked by everyone in boxing. Would HBO ever consider doing a 
show in Asia or bringing some of those fighters over here for a Boxing 
After Dark show?

DiBella: There is a reason for that Marty. The reason that they are 
overlooked is that the majority of the Asian fighters wont leave Asia to 
fight. I've had some talks about a number of Asian fighters. I have been
really unable to get the better of the Asian fighters to fight in the 
U.S.A. That being said I have just had some conversations with Mr. Honda 
the esteemed Japanese promoter and we are talking about the possibility 
of bringing Joichiro Tatsuyoushi who is pretty much known as the Arturo 
Gatti of Japan to the United States to fight a fight on Boxing After 
Dark. So that is something I would like to do next year. 

BW: I thought with the current economic troubles in Asia that there would 
be a better chance of bringing some of the Asian fighters to America to 
fight.

DiBella: There might be a little bit better of a opportunity now but the 
guy I most want to bring over here is Tatsuyoshi.

BW: Does HBO retain the rights to all the fights shown on HBO. Has there 
ever been any kind of consideration given to doing some kind of "Classic 
fight series" such as the ones on ESPN's Classic sports network or some 
kind of video series.

DiBella: We have kicked that around and at some point in time I think it 
is something we will a look at. We are in the process right now of 
developing and building a library of fights and somewhere down the line
I am sure we will do something on those lines.

BW: Is the HBO announcing team signed to yearly contracts and has there 
ever been a thought given to changing the announcing team for maybe a 
Boxing After Dark show to see some new talent.

DiBella: Our announcers are on contract, I cant tell you the exact terms
of their contracts. I sense they are generally more than a year. When we
started Boxing After Dark, Ross Greenberg our executive producer and the 
guys that worked for him thought it would be a great idea to put Roy 
Jones on the team. That is really the difference in the two teams, George 
is on the World Championship Boxing series. You know if it is not broke
why fix it? I think we have the best team on televised boxing at the 
moment we are pretty happy and and pretty content. Obviously over the 
course of time things may change but right now we are happy with what we
have.

BW: USA TNF fight fight once held a poll to select a opponent for Oba 
Carr about 6 years ago, is this something that might be able to be done 
thru HBO's website by giving fans a vote on the fights or fighters they 
would want to see.

DiBella: We have been thinking about that for a while actually and Roy 
Jones has actually on a couple of occasions indicated a interest to 
choosing a opponent that way. When your dealing with big fights and big 
fighters with multi million paydays and superstars it becomes a little 
more difficult too pick the opponent that way. But if you can get the 
fighter on board and come up with a good pool of fighters that the public 
could choose from I think it can done and it is something we would 
consider at some point. 


BW: HBO got allot of credit back in the 80's for unifying the heavyweight 
title. Is there any thought being given to holding some kind of 
unification tourney in any weight class. A tourney generates lots of 
intrest in any sport.

DiBella: Of course theres talk and of course you want to unify titles but
it is not that simple. It is not up to HBO to unify titles, promoters
dont want titles unified because they want to control their own champions 
and their own belts. It is very difficult in this day and age to bring 
about a unification because the organizations themselves are not very 
supportive of unifications. Yes we would like to unify as many titles 
as possible but I am not very optimistic. Because I have no reason to be 
optimistic about that. It is definitely something that my boss has favored 
for a long time but is not something that is so easy to bring about. When 
you have different promoters, networks, sites and different alphabet 
organizations involved that have their own self interestes in mind, its 
almost impossible in this day and age to unify a title. 

BW: Arturo Gatti has taken alot of damage in his fights and some boxing 
fans I have talked with worry about his health after boxing. Is there a 
point where you say I wont use this fighter anymore on HBO because you 
believe he is taking too much punishment.

DiBella: We are not God and we are not doctors. You can get a sense that
a fighter has been taking allot of punishment. But if a fighter shows no
obvious signs of damage and he remains a competitive world class figther
it is difficult to shut him out. I look at Arturo Gatti and I get worried,
I happen to love Arthur, I think he is a great kid and I get worried about
him and the number of wars he's been in. I would certainly not use him
again if he's beaten up again by Ivan Robinson. If he doesn't manage to 
win that fight I would certainly encourage him to retire and definitely
would not look to do future Arturo Gatti fights on HBO. But if he can
beat Ivan Robinson (that fight is taking place on November 14th on the
undercard of the Roy Jones Jr. vs. Otis Grant) and get thru that fight
healthy I would see no reason not to continue using him.

BW: It must be hard because you see fighters like Jake LaMotta and 
Matthew Saad Muhammad who took massive amounts of punishment and they 
seem to be fine after their retired. 

DiBella: It is a very personal thing, Gatti has been in war after war and
yet he doesn't show any signs of it. Terry Norris really hasn't had that 
many wars and clearly sounds, looks, and fights like he shouldn't be in
the ring anymore. Based on what I saw I would not use Terry Norris on
HBO again. In the past we have refused to use Thomas Hearns, we have been 
approached very often about Thomas Hearns and Roy Jones. But you know
Tommy was a great fighter, a Hall of Famer and a tremendous person but 
right now Tommy Hearns should not be in a ring with Roy Jones and that
is a fight we would not consider.   

BW: Senator McCain has introduced another boxing bill which looks to help 
the fighters, have you seen it and as one of boxing most powerful men
do you support it?

DiBella: I have, and I applaud Senator McCain for all his efforts. I
think that any legislation that is written with the best interests of the
fighters in mind is good. So far both the Health and Safety bill that 
Senator McCain was involved in and The Muhammad Ali boxing act which they 
are now considering have the best intrest of the fighter in mind. I 
support Senator McCain's efforts. 


BW: Floyd Mayweather, Fernando Vargas, David Reid all seem to be rushing 
to title shots, do you fear that they might not be experienced enough and 
will get in trouble once they are in title fights with established 
fighters. That their career could be damaged much like a Leon Spinks or 
Davey Moore even if they win the title fight.

DiBella: What is the worse thing that can happen? If they loose they can
always come back, my gut tells me that Mayweather might be a little bit
inexperienced for Genaro. At the same time Floyd is much faster and much
younger and I think it is a very interesting flip of the coin kind of 
fight. It is really up to the fighter and the people around him to decide
if their ready and they appear to think they are.

BW: There is a lack of coverage for boxing in allot of the print media 
like Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News do you ever give them a call 
and say "I have this great fight coming up that you should cover" or try 
to get them involved in HBO telecast fights.

DiBella: We do everything in our power to try and get the word out about
the fights we are doing and the fighters we are televising. You cant 
force a newspaper or magazine to give you ink, you do the best you can
to get the word out there. We have a very good marketing department a
very good public relations department and they work very hard to get the
word out. I think they do a very good job of it. 

BW: You have worked with all the great promoters of the last decade who 
stands out as the easiest to work with and the most difficult.

DiBella: The majority of them are difficult in their own way. I think to
some extent the promoters who are not as big are a little easier to deal
with because they are more appreciative of getting opportunities and are
more willing to use their fighters in high risk competitive matchups.
But in general promoters are difficult.

BW: If you had a promising young fighter who would you send him to for 
training.

DiBella: There are allot of terrific trainers, I guess it would depend on 
who the fighter is and where he is from. I have allot of respect for Don
Turner, Tommy Brooks......I don't want to miss anybody. Jesse Reid is very
good trainer Freddy Roach, there are allot of good trainers in this 
business right now. I think Teddy Atlas is a terrific trainer for the 
right fighter. I cant really answer that question, it would depend on who
the fighter is and what he is like.    

BW: Are there any young fighters you are looking at now to use in future 
Boxing After Dark shows.

DiBella: Yeah, I would like to try and do something with Mark Johnson 
who I think he has been waiting patiently. There is a fighter out of
Great Britain a 168 pounder, Joe Calzaghe who I think might be the second
best non heavyweight European fighter after Naseem. He is a possible 
future challenge to Roy Jones, I would like to do something with Calzaghe
at some point. There are allot of fighters. I would like to continue and
build Michael Grant because I think he is a future heavyweight champion.

Bw: Is Michael Grant signed to a exclusive contract with HBO.

DiBella: No, but we are talking about that.

At this point of the interview I suggested to go off the record and I 
asked Lou DiBella if he had seen the jr. welterweight Shea Neary of Great 
Britain. I suggested that he would be a fun fighter for the people here 
in America to see.

DiBella: Lets go on the record. I have been talking with Shea Neary's 
promoter John Hyland and I am very interested in using Shea Neary in 
March. As part of our Boxing After Dark show that we would try and time 
around St. Patrick's day. We have talked about possibly a Shea Neary 
vs. Mickey Ward fight. If Tatsuyoshi if the Arturo Gatti of Japan then
Shea Neary is the Arturo Gatti of the U.K. I am actually looking forward
to doing something with Shea Neary.

BW: How do you keep in touch with the latest boxing news and personalities? 
Which boxing magazines do you read.

DiBella: You have to pretty much assume I get all of them, and on a daily
basis I am on the phone 100 times. I talk to promoters, managers, fighters
guys in the gyms. I have allot of friends in the boxing business and I
use them as resources. With respect to the magazines, I read The Ring
magazine, KO, International Boxing Digest is a favored of mine. There is 
a new magazine called Fight Game, I also read the Flash Boxing updates.
I pretty much read whatever is sent to me. You know what, lately I have
found there are some very good publications out of Europe. Boxing Monthly
is a very good magazine and so is Boxing News I read those religiously
too.    

BW: Last question if there was one thing you could change in the sport 
what would it be. 

DiBella: I would get rid of the Organizations (WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO) they 
are a negative factor. That would be a good starting point.