Monday, February 14, 2011

Lou DiBella, Time to go to Work!

Through some serendipitous cosmic event, Lou DiBella wound up with one of the three best fighters in all of boxing.  Sergio Martinez is the lineal middleweight champion of the world and a former junior middleweight champion.  Martinez has a crowd-pleasing style, the looks of a model and a willingness to fight the biggest names out there. 

With the temporary defection of the Manny Pacquiao to Showtime and the continued hiatus of Floyd Mayweather Jr., Martinez now finds himself in the pole position of featured HBO fighter.  He is their biggest star. 

Up until this point, HBO has not afforded Martinez any soft touches.  After the egregious draw in the Kermit Cintron fight, Martinez was a late replacement for the Paul Williams fight.  He was forced to move up a weight division to fight the middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and HBO basically mandated that he fight Williams in a rematch in order to reappear on the network.  In the aftermath of Martinez's stunning knockout of Williams, again HBO essentially dictated that Martinez fight the tough and technical junior middleweight titlist, Sergiy Dzinziruk.

Some of this treatment by HBO is understandable.  Martinez was not part of any master plan or marketing effort by HBO.  The network was not looking for some mid 30s Argentine boxer who lost to his most notable opponent (Antonio Margarito).  But things change. Their anointed young guns like James Kirkland, Victor Ortiz, Alfredo Angulo, Andre Berto and others have failed to gain the  momentum for one reason or another.  

Essentially Martinez fell into HBO's lap.  Lou DiBella has done a yeoman's job in getting Martinez exposure on the cable network.  However, what has he done to expand Martinez's name beyond the hardcore boxing faithful?

Should Martinez win the fight on March 12 (and he is the favorite), DiBella has the enviable position of being able to change the terms of how Martinez is treated by HBO and within the boxing industry as a whole.  With the victory, HBO will need Martinez far more than Martinez needs HBO. 

It's time for DiBella to be bold.  If I were he, I would have HBO run a file search and pull up one of those old three-fight deals that they used to give to Roy Jones and Floyd Mayweather.  Without any obvious big fight for Martinez in the immediate future, DiBella and HBO (or another entity) now must build Martinez into an A-side.  There are good "boxing" fights to be had with titleholders like Dmitry Pirog, Felix Sturm and Sebastian Zbik.  These fighters are not big names in America but HBO has many reasons to fund Martinez's Excellent European Adventure, especially as Pacquio continues on the faded champions tour and Mayweather refamiliarizes himself with the Clark County Courthouse sundry accouterments. 

In time, there are many big fights for martinez on the horizon.  Young guns like David Lemieux and Fernando Guerrero are ascending the middleweight ranks.  Martinez could also go to super middleweight to fight Andre Ward or Lucian Bute.  Those would be spectacular fights.

For Lou DiBella, it is time that he adds marketing and promoting to his role as cable TV slot-getter.  He has a potential huge name.  It is not enough to have press conferences with boxing writers.  Think out of the box.  Get Martinez a spread in Esquire or the New York Times fashion magazine.  Have him play around with Major League Soccer's All Stars or Spain's national team.  Work not just the boxing writers but the sports editors as a whole.  Martinez has a compelling story and a gregarious personality.   

At a certain point, DiBella and his level of promoters (Dan Goossen and Gary Shaw, for example) have to make their own luck and stop complaining about the American duopoly of bigtime boxing promotion.  Now is the time to think big.  Lou, you have your star, you have a network, now go to work!

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