EXCLUSIVE: Lou DiBella considers boxing future, opens up a changing sport
Continuing his extensive and exclusive interview with World Boxing News, Lou DiBella spoke about his future in boxing and what the sport has to do in order to overtake some of the biggest sports in the United States.
Always wanting to be involved in sports and entertainment, the 59-year-old begun his career in sports and entertainment with HBO Sports as a lawyer before becoming an established promoter.
However, after more than three decades of dedication to the sport he loves, DiBella reveals time has caught up with him.
“I worked my ass off, I’m not sure how much longer I want to continue working my ass off in boxing. But I have worked my ass off for 30 years. I was a young man when I got into boxing, I don’t feel like a young man anymore,” he exclusively told World Boxing News.
“I’ve seen things behind the scenes, seen it from the perspective of a television executive, I’ve seen it as a perspective from a promoter, both sides of the business, as a buyer and I’ve been a seller.
“I’ve seen it when boxing was rising and at the top and I’ve seen it decline and now I’m watching these very strange times where there’s a tremendous amount of money but the popularity of the sport, the health of the sport largely depends on where you live.
“I think the sport’s very healthy in the UK, I don’t think it’s quite as healthy in the states despite all the money.”
With DAZN USA and ESPN + just two of the new streaming services to have come into fruition, the stakes are high as they invest billions into the platforms in order to gain big subscription numbers.
While huge sums of money are being paid to the likes of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the sport to many isn’t even considered as one of the three biggest sports in America.
There was once a time where the heavyweight champion of the world was considered the most famous person in the world but not anymore.
Not only does boxing have to compete with football, basketball and baseball, it also has to deal with the rapid rise of MMA, Dana White’s UFC in particular.
Asked if boxing could return to the pinnacle with the level of competition surrounding it, DiBella said: “I don’t know if you do, it’s a big sport but I just don’t think it’s ever going to compete against the big sports.
“There’s a lot of obstacles, a lot of factors, it’s unpredictable in terms of a length of a fight whether there’s a quick one round KO or it goes the distance.
“We’ve had our issues with corruption or what’s been perceived as corruption, we’ve had our issues with the dangerous nature of the sport.
“I think boxing is eternal everywhere. I think it’s eternal in the UK. And I think it’s eternal in the US.
“I don’t think boxing will ever go away. But I don’t know if boxing is capable of ever being among the top sports in the US.
“I think it can become bigger than what it currently is, but can it get as big as NBA, MLB? I don’t think that’s ever happening again.”
Meanwhile, interest in boxing from UK fans has never been in a better place. DiBella recently spent time in England to watch an absolute classic take place between Regis Prograis and Josh Taylor in the World Boxing Super Series at London’s O2 Arena, although his fighter was on the wrong side of a decision.
Taylor defeated ‘Rougarou’ in an absolute classic to unify the super lightweight division.
The former co-promoter of Deontay Wilder was quick to analyze why the UK had generated more interest in recent times.
“You have to remember something, boxing has an entirely different standing in the UK than it is in the United States. Boxing has a lot more competition as a sport and as an entertainment attraction in the US as it does to the UK.
“Just look at the fight between Regis Progrias and Josh Taylor in the UK. In London that was a big event, a very big fight and you had a Scottish guy in the main event against an American.
“In the United States, that fight didn’t get anywhere near [the attention]. I’m guessing not many people watched the WBSS in that afternoon on DAZN in the US.
“It’s interesting because UK fighters come to the United States for big money but the irony is that boxing is bigger in the UK and much more widely watched.
“The other irony is that American fighters and foreign fighters are not embraced in the UK the way UK fighters are embraced elsewhere.
“The sport I would say overall with respect to the fans and fans support, the sport is healthier in the UK.”