Wednesday, April 26, 2023

DAZN and DiBella: Testing the Waters

The last few years in boxing have been challenging for promoter Lou DiBella. With dozens of fighters in his stable, but without a high-profile TV or streaming platform contract, he's had to fight and claw to create opportunities for his boxers. In some instances, this meant making deals with a co-promoter who had a dedicated platform (Tevin Farmer with Matchroom and Richard Commey with Top Rank). In other scenarios he's had to accept B-fighter or "opponent" offers from larger organizations. He's utilized platforms such as ShoBox and the now-defunct Ring City for his developing fighters. But there have been frustrations. Talented fighters such as O'Shaquie Foster, who now has a title at junior lightweight, left DiBella Entertainment. 

Despite these business challenges, DiBella has continued to sign talent: established fighters, young professionals, and those who recently turned pro. He struck lightning in a bottle a few years ago when George Kambosos defeated Teofimo Lopez, which eventually led to a co-promotional deal with Top Rank for Devin Haney. He also promotes one of the more exciting heavyweight prospects in Olympic gold medal winner Bakhodir Jalolov. 

But now the promoter without a distribution home has found temporary housing, or maybe an Airbnb. He recently made a deal with DAZN to provide two club-level shows for the platform. The first event will be in conjunction with promoter Larry Goldberg of Boxing Insider for Thursday, April 27th at Sony Hall in New York City.

Promoter Lou DiBella
Photo courtesy of DiBella Entertainment

The show is headlined by one-time top prospect Brian Ceballo (13-1, 7 KOs) against Luis Alberto Veron (20-6-2, 9 KOs). Ceballo, suffered his first loss in his last fight against Nicklaus Flaz. Brian is from New York, but hasn't fought there since 2019. This is a big opportunity for him to get his career back on track. 

Interestingly, Ceballo isn't promoted by either DiBella or Goldberg, but by veteran boxing promoter Tom Loeffler. Ceballo made sense for Goldberg and DiBella because they understand how important local fighters are for generating buzz (and ticket sales) at the club level. On another fight on the card, Sydney Maccow (8-8) against Christian Otero (5-3), two boxers from rival New York City gyms will be squaring off. While neither fighter is above the club level, DiBella thinks that the fight is well matched, and that the local rivalry will help at the box office. 

DiBella is most excited about two of his undefeated prospects on the card. Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 5-0 Mongolian Olympian who fights in the junior lightweight division, and David Lopez, a 2-0 fighter who used to be with Mayweather Promotions. Lopez has fought at junior welterweight and welterweight and will be in the ring with Nelson Morales (3-5). In addition, the broadcast will highlight a female fight that DiBella believes could be fantastic, Miyo Yoshida (15-3) against Indeya Smith (6-6-2). DiBella thinks that Smith is a far better fighter than her record indicates. 

Erdenebat, who recently made waves when he admitted to dropping Ryan Garcia in sparring in the lead up to Garcia's fight with Gervonta Davis, will face Edy Valencia Mercado (20-9-6), who has gone the distance with high-profile fighters such as Jessie Magdaleno and Jose Vivas. DiBella has kept tabs on Erdenebat since the amateurs and is excited about promoting him.

"I had seen Erdenebat when he faced Shakur [Stevenson] and other top guys in the amateurs," said DiBella. "He's like a bull. He's a physically imposing little guy who fights like a monsoon. He's also an intelligent boxer. I've always kind of had my eye on him...He thinks he's ready to fight anyone in the world right now. He's that type of kid." 

The structure of the deal between DAZN and DiBella is interesting. Goldberg will be the official promoter of record for their first show, which will contain DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" branding. Eric Bottjer, who works with DiBella, has assisted with the matchmaking on the card and DiBella's staff will also help with the promotion. But a lot of the nuts-and-bolts for the event itself will be handled by Goldberg, and that's fine with DiBella. 

"Larry Goldberg is trying to do the types of shows in New York that I did for years," said DiBella. "To the extent that I can help him out, lend my staff, put some of my talent on his cards, and make the cards make sense, I want to do that. He has a vision similar to mine – that you need to do quality cards in New York City. For New York to stay as a capital of boxing in the larger sense, you need to have a presence on the grassroots level and Larry understands that."

DiBella has talked with DAZN over the years about making a content deal. This agreement will be a trial for both sides. On one hand, the rights fees for these fight cards will be far lower than those paid by DAZN for a typical Matchroom event in the United States. However, DAZN Executive Vice President Joe Markowski has wanted to open up the platform to additional promoters, and this is an example of him putting his money where his mouth is. 

"The fact that DAZN is looking to add more programming for their subscribers is a good thing," said DiBella. "Over the last six to eight months, Markowski has made clear, both publicly and privately, that DAZN wanted to experiment with different levels of boxing, with grassroots boxing, looking at boxing at a regional level – developmental boxing. I think developmental boxing is key. Broadway Boxing has been doing developmental boxing for 20 years."

Hopefully, the move works out for both sides. The health of New York City boxing is very important to DiBella, who lives in Long Island and has been a key figure in the New York boxing scene for decades, first as an HBO programming executive and then as a promoter. 

The insurance requirements to stage shows in New York has reduced the number of club shows in the state and especially the city. Some promoters have left New York entirely. Others have drastically cut down their number of New York cards. Having a broadcaster to help subsidize costs in New York will definitely be helpful to the New York boxing scene. 

As for DAZN, this is an opportunity to provide more programming for their subscribers. These shows will feature a lot of talent that hasn't been widely seen, an opportunity for these fighters to build additional momentum for their career. And if the deal succeeds, DAZN will be able to plant a flag in New York City, which could become an important plank in their overall strategy for U.S. boxing. 

For now, the deal is an important first step in cultivating a working relationship between DAZN and DiBella. DiBella has always had a keen eye for talent and DAZN has the platform and the bandwidth to expand its boxing offerings. Hopefully, it's a good match for both parties, and for boxing fans. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment