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Donning A New Set Of Gloves

Donning A New Set Of GlovesAfterrolling with the punches during a long career in the boxing promotionbusiness, Tufts graduate Lou DiBella is stepping out of the ringand into the diamond. Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.20.05] After 15years in the boxing business, Tufts graduate Lou DiBella has seensome of the worst offenses in all of sports. As head of programmingfor HBO Sports, he gained a reputation for honesty as he triedto clean up the sport. Now it’s time for a new set of gloves– recently, DiBella headed a group of investors in the purchaseof the Norwich (Conn.) Navigators, a struggling minor league baseballteam.

“I thinkthere is more negativity and back stabbing in the world of boxingthan in most other places,” DiBella (A’82) told theHartford Courant. “Minor league baseball is a sportI view as one of the places where sports operates the way sportsshould. For me it’s a great personal opportunity for mymental health.”

DiBella will be teampresident and general partner of the Eastern League club.

After rising to thetop of the boxing profession, DiBella split with HBO in 2000 toform DiBella Entertainment. Despite his efforts to diversify hisbusiness, the company maintained a strong emphasis on boxing.Now, as DiBella is branching out, he is looking forward to theexperience.

“Letme put it this way,” DiBella told the Courant,“Whatever goes on in baseball will pale in comparison towhat I’m used to in boxing. I have 100 percent confidencethat nothing in minor league baseball is going to shock my sensibilities.”

DiBella not only knowsabout the grievous offenses in the boxing business, but he didsomething about it. He testified alongside Muhammad Ali in 2002to change the way boxing was run, in a reform effort spearheadedby Arizona Senator John McCain.

“Thatmovement has been stalled,” DiBella told the Courant.“I believe it’s necessary, but there are a lot offorces blocking that from happening.”

While always beingsomeone who was quick to stick his neck out for boxers, DiBellahas taken his own blows.. Just after leaving HBO, he was accusedby a former client and world middleweight champion of taking a$50,000 bribe while at the cable network. DiBella successfullydefended himself against the charge and was awarded $610,000 ina libel suit in December 2001.

“Tohave him lie in a way that would impact my reputation and credibilityin the worst possible, that just blew my mind,” DiBellatold the Courant. “It made me far less trustingas a promoter. I’m still pro-fighter. That being said, Ilearned the hard way you have to be careful and watch your backat all times in the sport of boxing.”

Despite this setback,DiBella has maintained a strong reputation as a promoter.

“Somepromoters you have to watch closely,” Paul Munick, vicepresident of sports entertainment at Mohegan Sun told the Courant.“Lou has been fine and plays by all the rules. Has he filledthe building for us? No. Has he gotten us some good fights andsome television exposure? Yes. He has delivered. He is one ofour favorite promoters, I can say that.”

Even with his successin boxing, DiBella is excited to turn his attention to his newventure.

“Baseball andboxing have always been my two sports loves my whole life,”he said.

Drawing from his promotingexperience, DiBella has many ideas to improve support for hisnew baseball team.

“Theteam got tremendous support from the community in the early days,but that sort of stopped.” he told the Courant.“If the community wants the team here, they have to showit.”

Also DiBella plansto write a book chronicling his many adventures in boxing.

“I’veseen everything you can imagine,” he said. “I can’tlimit it to one story. I’ve used the analogy of it likebeing like Dodge City. I spent 15 years in Dodge City. That givesme a lot of stories.”

 

 

 

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