Promoter Lou DiBella continues stellar year with Spence v Bundu clash

DiBella 18/08/2016

Since forming DiBella Entertainment (DBE) in 2000, promoter Lou DiBella has had his share of success in the sport that he grew up loving as a young boy.

Having promoted hundreds of shows, both here in the US and abroad, as well as working with a number of the most recognizable names in the sport and staging some of the biggest fights in boxing over the past decade, the promotional powerhouse has enjoyed quite a ride along the way. While it is only August, 2016 has already been a year to remember for DiBella.

On Sunday, August 21, the year will be even more memorable when Errol Spence Jr. (20-0, 17 KOs) headlines the inaugural boxing event held at Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, promoted by DiBella Entertainment, presented by Premier Boxing Champions, and televised by NBC. Spence will face off against Leonard Bundu (33-1-2, 12 KOs) in an IBF welterweight world title eliminator.

The undercard will feature the highly anticipated grudge match between Brooklynite Heather “The Heat” Hardy (17-0, 4 KOs), one of the biggest local attractions throughout all of NYC, and longtime rival Shelly “Shelito’s Way” Vincent (18-0, 1 KO), of Providence, RI, and New England’s most popular female fighter. With the WBC International women’s featherweight title at stake, the Hardy-Vincent fight will be the first female bout televised by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), airing on NBC Sports Net.

Tickets for the August 21 PBC on NBC event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and presented by BROOKLYN BOXING™, start at $35. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.ticketmaster.com and www.fordamphitheaterconeyisland.com. Doors open at 2:30pm.

“This has been a great year for boxing so far and I am thrilled to add to it by promoting the first nationally broadcast boxing event from Coney Island at Ford Amphitheater, on Sunday, August 21. We will continue to witness the emergence of rising star Errol Spence Jr., who takes on the experienced Leonard Bundu in a significant fight for the welterweight division. The PBC on NBC telecast, beginning at 5:00PM ET, will have a terrific lead-in with the Olympic men’s basketball gold medal game,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “The Hardy-Vincent bout is the culmination of a rivalry brewing for many years and, given their all-action styles, is guaranteed to be a brawl. With a platform like NBC Sports Net, this bout is also very important for the progress of women’s boxing.”

Both Hardy and Vincent are promoted by Lou DiBella, who has been a longtime advocate for women’s boxing, showing support for the movement and helping it grow by continually putting female bouts on his cards. Earlier this year, DiBella signed Puerto Rican Amanda Serrano, who won the WBO female featherweight title on one of DBE’s Broadway Boxing events. Serrano then became the first female ever to defend a world championship at Barclays Center as part of the DBE-promoted Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton card on July 30.

2016 started off with a bang for DiBella. Making the third defense of his WBC heavyweight championship, Deontay Wilder scored a devastating one-punch knockout over once-beaten Artur Szpilka before a raucous crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The knockout, which left Szpilka sprawled out flat on his back for several minutes, is one of the leading contenders for knockout of the year. The bout was Wilder’s New York debut and the first heavyweight championship in Brooklyn in an astonishing 115 years, drawing a live gate of 12,688.

As soon as the March 12th Thurman-Porter welterweight world championship bout was announced, the boxing world was buzzing. The matchup was not only the biggest bout to be made in the welterweight division, it was also one of the most anticipated fights in all of boxing. After Thurman suffered a neck injury from a car accident, the championship bout was postponed to June. On June 25th, at Barclays Center, Thurman and Porter turned in spectacular performances. Before a crowd of 12,718, which garnered the highest economic gate in Barclays Center’s history, and in the first championship bout televised on CBS in prime time in nearly 40 years, Thurman and Porter engaged in a vicious 12-round war that became an instant classic. The bout, which Thurman won by a narrow decision, drew a peak audience of 3.94 million viewers. It is the most watched boxing telecast of 2016 thus far and is one of the leading candidates for “Fight of the Year”.

“If you didn’t appreciate that fight, you don’t love boxing. To have a fight with that kind of anticipation, with the best fighting the best, and then you get a ‘fight of the year’ candidate. You get what you anticipate and you get what, on paper, you hoped it would be. This was a good night for the sport,” proclaimed DiBella shortly after the bout.

Then came the July 30th Santa Cruz-Frampton featherweight world championship on Showtime. When the fight between the two undefeated champions was first announced, boxing insiders and fans were excited about the matchup, though many questioned why the fight was being brought to the east coast. Santa Cruz is a superstar on the west coast with a huge following among his Mexican and Mexican-American fan bases. Frampton, hailing from Northern Ireland, had only fought in the US once before, in San Antonio.

Inside an electric Barclays Center, the undefeated 122lb. champion Frampton moved up in weight and took on Santa Cruz, the best fighter in the featherweight division, ripping away the defending champion’s 126lb. title in a star-making performance. The fighters waged a brutal war from the opening bell, combining to throw over 1,600 punches and had the nearly 10,000 screaming fans on their feet for the entire 12-round contest. Fans and insiders once again immediately began hailing this contest as the “Fight of the Year”.

At the post-fight press conference, DiBella stated, “The last time we were here, I called the Thurman-Porter fight the ‘Fight of the Year’ because of the competitiveness at such a high skill level. I think that might’ve been outdone by this one. You could make a very strong argument that you were just privileged to see the ‘Fight of the Year’ because these guys fought a war at a tremendously high skill level. This was great. I’ve been given the opportunity to promote some brilliant, amazing fights. It was a privilege to promote this fight. Obviously, as a fan though, it was more of a privilege to watch this fight. It was such a great fight. Neither guy went down. It was bombs-away. I’m humbled by watching that. If you’re a boxing fan and you didn’t like that, then there’s something wrong.”

Just over seven months into the year, 2016 has already produced one “Knockout of the Year” candidate and two “Fight of the Year” candidates.

That’s not all that DiBella has been up to though.

In March, on just a week’s notice, former middleweight title challenger Avtandil Khurtsidze stopped highly regarded and top-rated middleweight contender Antoine Douglas in a huge upset. The win earned Khurtsidze the #1 ranking in the WBO, and likely will set him up for a shot at the title sometime later this year.

In April, DiBella’s Puerto Rican star and former Olympian Jose Pedraza successfully defended his IBF 130lb. title, and DiBella is currently working to place the Puerto Rican either in a unification bout or have him move up in weight with the goal of becoming a two-division world champion.

In June, undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15KO’s) became Montenegro’s first-ever world champion when he stopped Franklin Mamani to win the WBC lightweight championship. It was Zlaticanin’s second consecutive bout in the US since signing with DBE, both of which were broadcast on the Showtime network.

In addition to the undefeated champions Pedraza and Zlaticanin, the DBE roster sports some of the most promising young talent in all of boxing, including a stable of Ukrainian fighters in Sergey Derevyanchenko, Ievgen Khytrov, Ivan Baranchyk, Ivan Golub and Radzhab Butaev, all of whom are co-promoted with Fight Promotions Inc. and have a combined record of 48-0, 41KO’s.

Derevyanchenko and Khytrov have been on the fast track since turning pro. The middleweight stable-mates have appeared on national TV multiple times throughout their young careers and most recently co-headlined an ESPN card in July, with both undefeated fighters turning in flawless performances. Derevyanchenko dismantled former middleweight champion Sam Soliman inside two rounds, becoming just the second fighter ever to stop the tough-as-nails Australian. The win moved Derevyanchenko’s record to 9-0, 7KO’s, and earned him the #2 ranking in the IBF middleweight world ratings. Not to be outdone, Khytrov, who is rated in the top 15 by all four major sanctioning bodies, and as high as #5 in the WBC, handed out a vicious thrashing to highly regarded Paul Mendez, stopping Mendez, now 13-1-2 (1NC), in the ninth round. With the victory, Khytrov improved to 14-0, 12KO’s, and will likely jump even higher in the WBC world ratings.

An aggressive fighter with dynamite in his hands, Baranchyk has knocked out all but one fighter he has faced (11-0, 10KO’s) including back-to-back highlight reel first-round knockouts on ShoBox in December of last year and March of this year. The 23-year-old lightweight terror is scheduled to be back on ShoBox in the early fall.

Rounding out the group are welterweights Golub (12-0, 10KO’s) and Butaev (2-0, 2KO’s). Golub made his ShoBox debut in March, stopping previously undefeated Marlon Aguas. Both Golub and Butaev are looking to gain further national exposure in the coming months.

Chosen as one of ESPN.com’s 2015 “Prospects to Watch”, super lightweight Regis Prograis continues to impress with each outing. In March, Prograis stopped tough Aaron Herrera in just one round, his third consecutive appearance on ShoBox. The hard-hitting Prograis, ranked #12 in the WBA and #14 in the WBC, improved to a perfect 18-0, 15KO’s, in June, stopping Luis Eduardo Florez, picking up the NABF super lightweight title in the process.

Looking to further bolster his roster, DiBella recently announced the signing of top-rated contender Felix Diaz. The only Olympic gold medalist in the history of his native Dominican Republic, Diaz (18-1, 8KO’s), who was coming off a majority decision loss to Lamont Peterson last October, took a fight against the highly regarded, much bigger, and undefeated Sammy Vasquez Jr. in July. A significant underdog, Diaz pressured Vasquez from the outset and never let off the gas, ultimately winning a unanimous 10-round decision in an absolute war on the undercard of Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title defense against Chris Arreola. It was a sensational performance by Diaz, one that was broadcast live and in prime time on the FOX network. Diaz is looking for the biggest fights out there and has called out all of the top names in the 140 and 147lb. divisions.

DiBella has also seen a real-life Rocky story unfold for his Philadelphian junior lightweight Tevin Farmer, who has elevated himself from being a 7-4-1 stepping stone for young prospects to becoming a legitimate world title contender. In March, he won the NABF title, propelling him into the top 10 of the 130lb. world ratings. With none of the top 130lb. fighters looking to give the gifted Farmer a shot, he jumped up in weight to take on feared puncher Ivan Redkach on July 30. In a bout broadcast on Showtime Extreme, Farmer dominated Redkach, showing his entire arsenal and turning in a near flawless performance. Earning scores of 99-89, and 98-90 twice, Farmer increased his winning streak to 15 bouts in a row.

DiBella’s Broadway Boxing series, the longest running local boxing series in the US, which serves as a platform for DBE’s up-and-coming prospects, continues to thrive and grow both locally and outside the NYC area. DiBella brought the series to Foxwoods in June, staging the first of three summer shows at the casino and resort on June 30th. The series is set to return to the venue on Thursday, September 1.

With many big fights and events on tap, there seems to be no slowing down anytime soon for the New York-based promoter.