Lou DiBella Re-ups Sergio Martinez
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (June 17, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
Sergio Martinez - Photo © German Villasenor
The Orlando Magic would love to be in the position that promoter Lou DiBella is in right now, as it relates to their star center, Dwight Howard. A year from now, they’ll have no idea if Howard will remain with the franchise as he heads into free agency. DiBella, on the other hand, doesn't have to worry about middleweight champion Sergio Martinez taking his talents anywhere else, as he agreed to terms with his company on a new promotional pact that covers a minimum of six fights over three years.

At age 36, it will most likely be the last promotional contract he ever puts his name on.

"The way the contract is drafted, it's likely to take him through the end of his career," DiBella told Maxboxing on Thursday afternoon.

When asked if other entities were starting to sniff around or attempting to poach “Maravilla,” DiBella stated, "The scuttlebutt was that his contract was running out in February but his contract was not running out till June and beyond June, he had a 60-day exclusive negotiation period where I had a right to match. So in effect, we had over a year on the contract but the people that were making a run on him did not realize that and thought there was far less time. And when people are dangling craziness and are attempting to disrupt relationships, you're better off putting that to bed and putting it to rest as quickly as you can. I believe it was never Sergio's intention to go elsewhere from [adviser] Sampson Lewkowicz and myself.

"So we used this opportunity to re-up with DBE and he's very happy with the deal that was made and obviously for my company and for me, it's a wonderful deal and a great relief, frankly."

DiBella came into the promotional side of this business with a certain naïveté, perhaps not understanding the treacherous nature of the industry that exists on all sides. It's a dog-eat-dog world where only the rules of absolute survival apply. There is no room for the soft-hearted or meek and more than once, DiBella has been jilted by those he thought were loyal to him. Martinez, to a certain degree, reaffirms his faith in those he has worked diligently for.

"Y' know what, when something like this happens, it does reaffirm your faith in some people," he admits, "and I've always been a pro-fighter promoter and frankly, the people that write about the sport, generally, and follow the sport, for good reason are pro-fighter but they don't pay attention to a lot to the level of disloyalty that often exists. This was refreshing; this was a guy that appreciated where his career has gone, where he was not too many years ago and certainly that stuff being dangled in front of him, that I could not have frankly matched. But a deal was made; that's what Sergio wanted and obviously, it works for my company and myself. This was a breath of fresh air.

"This is an unusual guy; I  mean, he's a real gentlemen and the other thing is, he's become a very astute businessman and has a lot of businesses in Spain that are doing very, very well and he wasn't going to be enticed by a signing bonus that someone would eventually steal back from him."

So now, DiBella and Martinez look to the future and that means an October 1st bout is in the making.

"It's going to be Darren Barker; it looks like and I believe it will be on HBO," said DiBella, who says that HBO's approval of the Brit could come by Friday. "Frankly, we made another offer to- at HBO's request- to Daniel Geale, who frankly, was another fighter that Sergio wanted to fight to, in effect, unify- even though he doesn't technically have the [W]'BC belt, we don't acknowledge [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr. as champion- and we tried to make the deal with Geale but Daniel wants to make the first defense of his title in Australia against somebody of less danger than Sergio before he takes on a challenge like Sergio, which I can understand. But right now, it's looking more and more like Barker and I hope to have that wrapped up with HBO by tomorrow."

As for the venue, with the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles not available, DiBella says that it will "most likely" take place in either Las Vegas or Atlantic City.

But while Geale has possession of the IBF title belt, he is a virtual unknown to the boxing fans of America. Barker is equally as anonymous and holds no major title to speak of. This announcement was met with derision by boxing fans who expected more from the recognized middleweight champion of the world. However, according to DiBella, Barker brings an interesting backstory to the table and hardcore following that will journey to America for him. "At least according to Eddie and Barry Hearn, he'll travel more people to the States than Carl Froch or Amir Khan did. That remains to be seen but it's also going to bring over the entire British media with Andy Lee fighting on the card, which is also of interest to the British and Irish media."

Lee is expected to be paired up in a rematch with Brian Vera on this card.

When asked about the possibility of not getting HBO's blessing for this card, DiBella stated without hesitation, "We're fighting October 1st, period."

Since taking over the reins of Martinez a few years ago, DiBella has done an admirable job in maneuvering his career. He has become a staple on HBO and has earned pound-for-pound status. On the flipside, while Martinez says he's done everything HBO has asked of him- that might be precisely the problem. For “Maravilla” to really get in the mix of the marquee fights, he'll have to be more than just that guy who only fights twice a year when HBO happens to have a slot open for him. In the aftermath of his dominating victory over Sergiy Dzinziruk in March, Team Martinez saw promises from HBO to return in the summer get continually pushed back into the fall.

While they have a point in calling out other promoters (namely Bob Arum) who are reluctant to throw their fighters in with Martinez, they themselves haven't done all that much to help their own cause. Until Martinez is a more active, recognizable figure, who performs on larger stages- not casino ballrooms that are half-empty- he'll continually be the guy on the outside looking in.

"Well, I can tell you that he needs to stay busy," DiBella concedes. "This is the prime of his career, so there's no question that he's going to fight three times in the next 12 months- even if HBO can't accommodate all three fights- he's going to fight three times in the next 12 months. So he's going to fight more often; he has to. I also think there are some good fights that are going to present themselves. We've talked to Felix Sturm's people; they couldn't do the fight in the fall because of their commitment to German TV but they can come to America in his fight after next. Not after his fight against Matthew Macklin- which is in a few weeks- but he has to do one more fight in Germany and by next year, he can come here.

"Geale is interested in the fight next and we would be happy to go- for the right economic deal. When he gets his sh*t together, we'd be happy to go to Cancun to fight Alfredo Angulo."

When asked about the possibility of facing Barker in England, where this event would be much more well-received, DiBella answered, "We looked at going there; it doesn't work out because of how late you have to go to go primetime on HBO and same-day delays suck, anyways. So we were more than willing to go there and frankly, Sergio's fought in England many times."

One of the quandaries that plagues Martinez is that while he is Latin, in America, if you're not Mexican or Puerto Rican, it's tough to establish a firm foothold in any region of the country. But boxing is an international sport and this crew has to be creative in its approach. DiBella doesn't disagree.

"Geale and Sergio can do a small stadium in Australia; we're not going to Germany to face Sturm. That's because I've been to Germany too many times," he said, chuckling. "But yes, there is a possibility he could do sort of a European tour, particularly if there's a third fight that can't be on U.S. TV."

Other possibilities are a rubber match with Paul Williams, who faces Erislandy Lara on July 9thbut DiBella makes it clear that this time around, they have the economic leverage and there will be no shenanigans imposed on them, such as catchweights.

Then there is the issue of one Dmitry Pirog, whose supporters have inundated DiBella's timeline on his Twitter account. He addresses that issue by explaining, "I  mean, there's a lot of factors; he doesn't bring one dollar to the table, none, zero. Two, there's a certain point in time where a fighter has a right to say, 'I want to fight this guy.' [Martinez] has fought everyone that's been put in front of him and not been given any type of ability to select and he really doesn't want to fight for the WBO, period. He thinks what happened with his title getting stripped, they didn't give him a chance to make a decision to stay at '60 or '54 and they stripped it, frankly, because they thought they were going to hand it to Danny Jacobs."

That first reason given to not face Pirog is ironic on several fronts, given that it triggered a volcanic eruption from Mount St. DiBella when Arum said something along the same line as it related to Chavez Jr. facing Martinez. But hey, this is the boxing business; what comes around goes around- when it's convenient.

DiBella continues, stating, "It's not anger at Pirog, personally; it's just that he's not fighting for the WBO title. Pirog's not Dzinziruk; he's not that level of fighter. His last defense was absolutely dreadful, if anyone saw it. Here's the other thing and Sergio said this succinctly the other night: if Pirog doesn't have that belt that they took off of Sergio's waist, no one would be saying he should be fighting Pirog. Nobody. And other than- and I've said this many times- I'm a boxing freak, myself, so I like to satisfy the hardcore, but the hardcore with all due respect, they may know who Dimitry Pirog is but no one else does. Here's the other thing we said: go out and win a big fight. We were told to fight Dzinziruk; put Dzinziruk in with Pirog. If Pirog can beat Dzinziruk, we'll fight [Pirog] down the line. 

"If he can beat a Paul Williams, if he can beat a top-shelf guy, then he has some value when people really know who he is."

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I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.

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