"At our best, there's no sport that touches boxing," says veteran promoter
Joseph Herron Updated
The truth is often revealed in the ring.
Perhaps it's why fans seldom see the best fighting the best in any division, and why the sport of boxing has become a niche sport in America.
Although there are exceptions, like Ramirez/Taylor, Fury/Joshua and Canelo/Saunders, most managers and promoters these days would seemingly prefer to protect their respective investments and follow the path of least resistance, rather than "roll the dice" in competitive and even money match-ups.
When veteran promoter Lou DiBella began his career in the fight game, "the sweet science" was still a commanding force in the US sports market.
He claims its the primary reason why boxing doesn't capture a more consistent mainstream audience any longer.
"When I first got into boxing, you never heard fighters talking about their side of the street, who was promoting who or who was managing who. You always heard them demanding the fights against each other," DiBella recently stated on The Porter Way Podcast.
"What bothers me now is there's too many guys I think maybe who hide behind 'their side of the street' a little too. You don't see them going out there saying to their handlers, 'I want this guy, go get him for me'. Now they start worrying about purse splits and negotiations instead."
"That's why you've got business people around you. That's why you've got a manager. That's why you've got a promoter, if you have one. I'm just a little bit sad why we're not seeing more of the best quality product more often."
Although Lou has been a boxing promoter for the past two decades, he got his start in the "hurt business" while working for Home Box Office in 1989.
As an HBO executive, the Harvard Law graduate turned the subscriber based network into the most powerful and influential platform in boxing. During that 11-year run, DiBella would often demand the best match-ups from various promoters like Main Events, Top Rank and Don King Productions, often forcing them to work together and refusing to pay for the less attractive match-ups.
Perhaps the pastime needs a more influential third-party to intervene once again, and force the various power promoters of boxing to work in a symbiont effort to improve the overall health of the sport.
While the four most widley recognized sanctioning organizations are supposed to serve this purpose, they seldom encourage unification in any weight division and customarily feature different fighters in their independent ranking systems.
Despite recognizing that boxing was much healthier in the 70's, 80's and 90's, DiBella still believes the sport has the potential to be the most popular and dramatic pastime in the competitive American sports entertainment market.
"At our best, there is no sport that touches boxing," claims the New York native. "Because it's always mano a mano, it's not always the best athlete that wins. There's all sorts of intangibles...like who has more heart, who's got more skill, who's faster, who punches harder, who takes punches better...there's a real beauty and poetry to our sport that you can't find anywhere else when we're at our best."
"But I'm a little disappointed with how infrequently our best happens these days. There was a time when boxing was commanding the attention of the sports world almost every week."
The most commonly cited example of this is the most frequently requested match-up in the packed welterweight division; Errol Spence Jr. vs. Terence Crawford. Even though the real bosses of boxing, the outspoken fans of the sport, have demanded this fight for years, all parties involved have failed to make this match-up a reality.
The 60 year old promoter believes "the best not fighting the best" is partially responsible for the recent popularity and surge of exhibition and YouTube events.
"When you don't make the best fights possible, you ultimately don't make the stars that transcend boxing. You have to remember, Leonard, Hearns, Hagler and Duran weren't only four boxing stars, they were mainsteam stars and pop-culture icons. They were in commercials all over the world and legitmate celebrities."
"Because our product isn't consistently where it could be, guys aren't becoming what they could be. I'm not going to name names, but there are a lot of world champions, making a lot of money, who can currently walk down Times Square and no one would know who the f*** they are."
So how does boxing become a more mainstream pastime in America once again?
The best competing against the very best would be a great place to start...the real bosses of boxing deserve it.
Which match-up would you like to see made for 2021?
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