Lou DiBella Doubles Down
Many say a second wave of female boxing has exploded in the United States since the late summer of 2016 when NBC Sports televised the first go-around between Heather Hardy and Shelly Vincent, the 10 round battle was considered the fight of the year and since then we’ve had a near avalanche of female boxing televised on the U.S. airwaves.
From Claressa Shields to Amanda Serrano have been featured on Showtime while ESPN has broadcast Marlen Esparza, Seniesa Estrada and Mikaela Mayer among others on their airwaves. This year HBO jumped on the wagon featuring Cecilia Braekhus and the return bout between Hardy and Vincent.
No other U.S.-based promoter has supported female boxing more during this second wave than Lou DiBella. Despite heavyweights Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank signing a small number of female fighters to their stable, DiBella has always had a multiple number of them in his company including the Serrano sisters, Melissa St. Vil and the aforementioned Hardy.
“I am a real believer of what I am about to say,” DiBella stated in an exclusive interview with the all-female boxing podcast 2-Min Round on blogtalkradio.com. “A terrific woman bout in every fight card is the least we can do but it adds an element to the card. It brings in some people that otherwise maybe pay as much attention. If you can showcase high quality women’s boxing, the best female fighters in legitimate fights, you are doing that card a great service.”
DiBella has big plans for 2019 including an all-female boxing card on Showtime sometime early next year. “I am talking about a card that is nothing from top to bottom but women. Women in the three or four televised bouts and because of the two-minute rounds, something I am by the way a firm believer in, that they should not be 3-minute rounds because the fact women’s fights go quicker you can do four title fights on a show. I am in some meaningful discussions about an all-female fight card that would take place in the first trimester of the year on Showtime.”
“Right now there are three unifications fights that are being thrown around,” he continued. “it is not cast in stone but Franchon Crews against Alicia Napoleon in a unification bout, Heather Hardy vs. Jelena Mrdjenovich. I have not yet spoken to Jelena’s manager but that is a fight I would love to pursue. Another fight that I think it is an amazing fight, although it doesn’t feature an American fighter, is Maiva Hamadouche out of France against Eva Wahlstrom from Finland in an even fight with two very accomplished champions. There are a lot of other possibilities. Layla McCarter is an interesting woman that comes into the picture. Raquel Miller is knocking on the door to a world title so there can be a world title fight for her that can be made.”
Since the interview it was announced Wahlstrom, the WBC super featherweight champion, would be traveling north five pounds to lightweight to challenge Katie Taylor on December 15th.
Pay for Women to Rise
Despite the rise of female boxing in the United States, DiBella did put it into perspective that it will never gain the popularity men’s boxing has enjoyed for well over a century.
“Women have to be given their own platform instead of getting thrown a bone on cards featuring men,” DiBella said passionately. “I am not saying women’s boxing will ever be what the men’s is, I am not expecting that. I think the pay for women’s boxing will continue to rise and be more equitable but women fighters are not going to make what the men make. Same way women basketball players in the WNBA don’t make what the men make. They are entitled to equity and to opportunity.”
DiBella continued to explain the difference of what network’s are willing to pay for the licensing fees of fights are worlds apart between men and women boxing using the night of the Daniel Jacobs vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko in late October as an example where Heather Hardy captured the vacant WBO featherweight title with a hotly contested decision over her archrival Shelly Vincent in their rematch of that aforementioned 2016 Fight of the Year.
“On that night, (TV) paid a fortune for the Jacobs vs. Derevyanchenko fight and in fairness they got an excellent fight that cost millions of dollars,” he explained. “HBO got the rights to distribute the Hardy vs. Vincent fight by contributing ten thousand dollars. The rest of it was absorbed by the promotion. Five hundred thousand people roughly watched the Jacobs vs. Derevyanchenko fight and 435,000 watched the Heather Hardy vs. Shelly Vincent fight for a contribution of $10,000. You have to make fights that are exciting, you can’t have low skill level, people don’t want to see men that run around so they certainly don’t want to see women that run around.”
This month we saw the last scheduled boxing fight to be televised on HBO featuring two female fights with Cecilia Braekhus and Claressa Shields in separate bouts. For DiBella, a former HBO executive, it was too little too late stating that if the network wanted to they could have taken over female boxing.
“They could have completely dominated women’s boxing,” he said of his former employer. “Put a great sensational female fight on every broadcast and really change the world. What they really did is put Cecilia on that first fight because a men’s fight fell out. They got the Heather fight for ten grand and now the last fight in the history of HBO will feature Claressa in one fight and Cecilia in another and that is the end of boxing on HBO. They could have really created a niche and owned that niche. I think that was a missed opportunity but I don’t think they are the only people that missed an opportunity.”
Earlier this year five-divisional champion Amanda Serrano has announced she was leaving boxing for MMA because of the better pay but DiBella was able to secure her a lucrative deal with DAZN to keep her inside a boxing ring, and out a MMA cage, at least for 2019 in three fights.
“Amanda is coming down in weight because she is going to fight for the 115-pound WBO title,” DiBella explained. “The woman (current WBO super flyweight champion Raja Amasheh) has been injured so we are going to find out in the next few days if the woman has to have surgery which would cause her to vacate or if the fight can happen in a month or two. Amanda is going to fight three times in 2019 with the third fight being against Katie Taylor.”
In closing DiBella stated it isn’t hard for women’s boxing to gain a bigger profile on the U.S. airwaves if only given the chance and as far as women are willing to fight. “It is not very hard, it is proven. Men will watch women fight in a good fight. They’ll watch it. Some of them will complain about it but that is very small minority. They complain about women lawyers and doctors too.”
“The selling point is tremendous bang for the buck,” DiBella continued. “You can buy a women’s unification bout for a fraction of what any male title fight costs. You can never make a unification fight with any two male champions for less than seven figures or multiple seven figures. You can make a unification fight in women’s boxing for $150,000-$200,000 and that is the best fighting the best. It is incredible bang for the buck and it also bring another demographic and boxing needs new demographics. We need younger demographics, we need more diverse demographics.”
To listen to the complete interview please visit BlogTalkRadio.com/2MinRound