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Press Release: Operation Cleanup 3

By Zach Arnold | April 1, 2007

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Charles Jay
April 1, 2007

“I won’t let the bastards beat me.” — Promoter Lou DiBella, as told to Thomas Hauser of – July 4, 2005

Yeah, we’ll teach those bastard people a lesson.

On March 29, as he was preparing for an international telephonic press conference featuring his fighter – world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor – and Taylor’s latest challenger, former welterweight and junior middleweight champ Cory Spinks, promoter Lou DiBella became preoccupied with something else entirely. Never mind that in the May 19 fight in Memphis, there will be millions at stake, as well as the career of the only fighter DiBella has ever taken from ground zero to a world title. The most important thing that seemed to be on his mind was a guy who was fast asleep, about a thousand miles away.

Such is the paranoia of the promoter otherwise known as Diabolical L.O.U.

And such are the residual effects of “Operation Cleanup.”

On February 16, a column of mine criticizing an upcoming DiBella-promoted, HBO-televised show with Paul Malignaggi in the main event was published at one of the sites I contribute to – Boxing Scene ( It was an opinion I came about honestly and objectively, and indeed it was echoed by many of the people who subsequently contacted me. There were a couple of witticisms in the piece, out of which I actually thought DiBella might find some amusement. Obviously I overestimated his sense of humor.

That day, an apoplectic DiBella, who has my email address and phone number in his possession, placed a call to Rick Reeno, the editor of Boxing Scene. I had prepared myself for contingencies; the word throughout the boxing media was that if DiBella read something unfavorable to him, he had a tendency to go into a lather about it. So I had told Reeno specifically that in the event DiBella had any kind of a problem, he should simply tell Lou to call me.

Well, Lou indeed took exception to the story. And Rick told him, “If you have a problem, why don’t you call CJ?,” to which DiBella replied, “I don’t have time to call him.”

Then he proceeded to keep Reeno on the phone for about an hour.

During that time he spun a tale that can only be attributed to the loss of some of DiBella’s senses. I was supposed to have unsuccessfully attempted “shaking him down” for money, and because that didn’t happen I was now criticizing him and his fighters, Lou said. Reeno is too sharp for nonsense like that, so he challenged DiBella, who admitted that, in fact, he had never spoken to me, EVER, along those lines. Truth be known, I have had very few conversations at all with DiBella over the last 6-8 months, other than those concerning a “charity” event Lou was involved with, in which it was ME who was actually being solicited for money (Not by Lou himself, but we’ll discuss that some other time).

Then DiBella shifted the accusation to another person. He told Reeno that promoter Mike Acri was the perpetrator, calling on my behalf for the purposes of a “shakedown.” Well, he couldn’t support that claim. I don’t know what he was talking about. And Acri sure as hell doesn’t know what he is talking about.

But DiBella wouldn’t confront me directly. Or Acri. Shouldn’t that tell you something?

And I’m sitting there wondering, is this the length to which a guy will go to squelch a story? Discredit a writer? Intimidate an editor? Where else might he have done this? How imaginative were the fairy tales? What kind of mind operates in that way?

Whatever the answers, one thing was for certain – Lou DiBella had confused me with some whole other human being, in more ways than one.

The comments he made border on the slanderous. Now I know what you must be asking yourself right now: “Hey CJ, why don’t you just sue the guy?” Well, I guess I could; after all, DiBella attempted to throw me under the bus, using false charges, as told to someone I do business with. But that kind of thing costs money, wastes a lot of time, causes some headaches, and just isn’t any FUN.

Thankfully, I have different – and unique – resources at my disposal. Instead of suing, I can take a much closer, unfettered look at a guy – and pass it on to the reader.

As many of you are aware, I am curious by nature. So it follows that when someone behaves like DiBella did, it’s going to arouse that curiosity.

And so I’m starting to dig. And dig.

And dig some more.

The result will be something people have inquired about for quite some time, and which now looks like it is about to become a reality:

Operation Cleanup 3.

I talked about this openly about a year or so ago, but the people who were to be the cornerstone of that volume were not very well-known or very important, and have in fact since faded from view.

Such is not the case here.

Lou DiBella, Harvard law school graduate (you can’t know him five minutes without hearing that), is a well-known presence on the boxing scene, and has been for some time, beginning with his days as a vice-president of HBO Sports, during a period where the network asserted a position of increased dominance in televised boxing, then later as promoter of the aforementioned middleweight champion, Taylor.

When DiBella left HBO to launch his own operation, he heralded himself as someone who was going to bring a different way of doing business to the industry. He hesitated to call himself a “promoter,” because apparently that was a dirty word to him. He assumed the “other side of the table” with a combination of arrogance, intelligence and righteousness, not to mention an unprecedented package of 18 dates given him by HBO which may be the first time a major network has literally put a new promoter (oops, there’s that dirty word again) into business. He touted reform and insisted that he was going to “work for the fighter.”

He has also gone out of his way to present himself as a public figure, making himself available for umpteen media appearances, and lobbying for a role in the recent “Rocky Balboa” movie.

Under such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to examine his career within the standards he espoused with such brio from the very start.

We have every intention of undertaking that, in a special report called FOR WHOM DiBELLA TOLLS, which would be the centerpiece of “Operation Cleanup 3.”

FOR WHOM DiBELLA TOLLS will be an exploration of a boxing figure that may very well, at its end, be more comprehensive than anything that has ever been attempted outside that which has been conducted by a government agency. It may last up to nine months.

I have interviewed about a dozen people already, and fully expect that number to increase to at least five or six dozen by the time I’m finished. I imagine I’ll review over 700 documents, from a multitude of sources. The amount of research will be staggering.

By the time you see the first written word, I will have spoken to business associates, former business associates, fighters, promoters, matchmakers, regulatory personnel, boxing writers, television people and former Harvard students, with the list continuing to grow..

Apparently one of the people I have already interviewed must have leaked it to DiBella, because at about 1 PM Eastern time on Thursday – only an hour before the Taylor-Spinks conference call, Reeno says he got a rather urgent phone call from John Cirillo, one of Lou’s public relations operatives, who was carrying the message that DiBella had heard of a “hatchet job” that was being done on him and wanted to advise Reeno – and me too, I guess, by proxy – that “Lou’s lawyers will be ready.” Cirillo hung up the phone shortly before the conference call began, and Reeno, who honestly didn’t know anything about my plans for the series, was left scratching his head in amazement that everyone would be so concerned with me when they seemingly had more pressing business to attend to that day.

So it was quite possibly the first time in history that a lawsuit had been threatened against a story that hadn’t even been written (we’ve just applied for recognition with the Guinness Book people, by the way).

Yes, Lou will have his lawyers ready. Gee, that sheds a whole new light on things. I only ask that when they come before me, they are Harvard lawyers like Lou; but unlike Lou, that they are polite and nicely dressed, complete with their Ivy League beanies. And that there are about 40 of them. That way it will at least be a fair fight.

I don’t know about any “hatchet jobs”; actually, I am not saying the overall discovery process surrounding FOR WHOM DiBELLA TOLLS will result in a negative report on DiBella. In the “Operation Cleanup” series one of the things that got lost was that not only did my efforts identify scurrilous operators, issues that cried out to be addressed, and aspects of the game I felt needed to be reformed, but also, in spots, it pointed out certain things that were good and positive and represented what I saw as a step forward.

If DiBella has – particularly since he has gone out on his own – demonstrated that he has done business in such a way that he has backed up his original “mission statement”; if fighters got all the money they had coming, that he has operated with no secrets, and if he has indeed contributed in a significant fashion to the reform of boxing through his actions, as was his pledge, then he will be held forth as an exemplar.

If he has exhibited business practices that fell short of being open, honest and ethical, using the standards he in fact had established at the outset; if he has been hypocritical, or if he has engaged in conflicts of interest that would be unacceptable by any reasonable measure, he will be called to task. The series will then have its surgical and systematic effect, I can guarantee.

I’m sure things won’t be all black and white; there is bound to be a gray area. Frankly, I really don’t know which way the evidence will lead me.

But maybe the Cirillo phone call will give you some insight as to which way DiBella thinks it might turn out.

At all points in this exploration as are necessary, DiBella will be given an opportunity to respond to quotes or other material offered by my interviewees, and to answer direct questions on my part. It is his choice as to whether he wants to be responsive or not; the correspondence will be done through email, so as to alleviate the possibility of misquotes and miscommunication. Besides, Lou has lost his phone privileges with me. Maybe I will copy Mr. Cirillo on this as well – after all, as the PR person, he would have an interest in this, since FOR WHOM DiBELLA TOLLS will be either a PR bonanza or a PR disaster, depending on what the evidence dictates.

I fully expect some “damage control” on DiBella’s part. Don’t be surprised if he’s out there talking to people in the media who are “friendly” toward him, casting aspersions upon me in advance of the publication of FOR WHOM DiBELLA TOLLS (which should start appearing in about a month). Don’t get distracted by it; keep your eye on the ball. And ask yourself a question, if you do indeed come across such propaganda:

Why would Lou be so worried about this being published?

And speaking of media, another thing I intend to look into is the way DiBella deals with the press. I have heard stories of intimidation, with the threat of press passes and overall access being revoked, when DiBella is unhappy with an objective story. I do not as yet know how substantial any of this really is, so I would be looking for input here. In fact, I would be looking for information from ANYONE who has something to say, even if it’s on deep background. You can feel free to contact me at my email address:

[email protected]

Tell me your tale, and we’ll give Lou an opportunity to respond.

Also, the man who wants to talk about shakedowns and payoffs has his advertising banners on various boxing websites. We will survey the editorial material on those sites, as it concerns DiBella, examine whether it is disproportionately favorable, and if any of it carries with it a disclaimer. Since, based on DiBella’s accusations, he aspires to set forth another standard in this area, he can be held to it.

And so as many people as possible can see what we’ve come up with, yet another thing I’m considering is allowing other boxing websites to pull down the stories and use them for content if they so desire. There would be RSS feed from which you’ll be able to take the chapters. I’ll keep you posted along those lines.

“I still think boxing is a miserable business,” DiBella told Hauser in that July 2005 story.

The whole thing might yet become more miserable than he ever imagined.

We shall see.

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