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Boxing’s DiBella on Boxing vs. MMA

Posted on 03/04/2009

Veteran boxing promoter and former HBO senior executive Lou DiBella had some insightful comments regarding boxing and MMA. “Boxing clearly is in decline. I’ve been in the sport 19 years and boxing was relatively strong in the 1990’s,” DiBella told Danny Flexen in the February 27 issue of Boxing News. “The inability to attract younger fans to boxing is one of the main reasons for the proliferation of a mixed martial arts product that I feel is inferior to boxing.”

“Now boxing is an abomination, most people can’t tell you who the heavyweight champion is. The U.S. used to be a great breeding ground for heavyweights but now there are no U.S. heavyweights of note…Boxing’s not in the consciousness of the modern U.S. athlete. There are no full-time boxing writers. You can’t open a newspaper in New York and find the boxing results and Margarito-Mosley got no coverage. But the editors will say they are just responding to what their readership wants.”

For solutions, DiBella offers: “There’s not just one answer. Boxers need to be introduced more to the viewer, like in MMA where they use reality TV so the public forms an attachment to the fighter…UFC created a rock concert-like atmosphere. In the U.K. and Germany there’s more understanding of that. When Lucien Bute fights in Montreal they have big screens and go-go dancers. Here, it’s still an emcee in a suit and all rather dry. That has to change here. Also in MMA, the ticket pricing is lower. Younger fans can’t afford a ticket to boxing. No fan in these economic times will pay $1,000 or even $500 for a seat, readily.”

“I’d also like to see a regulatory body or a commissioner. Boxing is not an industry, it’s a series of independent transactions.”

DiBella also went on to say today’s TV execs in boxing are not making the fights people care about (such as Cotto-Mayweather or Margarito-Mayweather in ’08 or final heavyweight unification, though the problem there is that Valuev’s promoters want too many options for future Wladimir Klitschko defenses once he disposes of the giant.). “Also, TV execs are so enamored with the old guys. They think it’s better to use a recognizable name than to introduce a new guy. I disagree. If people get used to switching on a pay-per-view and getting a good give-and-take fight, then it won’t be on the name. TV needs to realize that styles make fights – recognizble names don’t mean a great fight.”

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