Long before Lou DiBella entered the minor league baseball industry as an owner, he promoted boxing matches. He continues in both roles, and will blend them on Aug. 26 at The Diamond.
DiBella, the president and managing general partner of the Richmond Flying Squirrels as well as a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, is bringing a boxing card to Richmond. It will be followed by a hip-hop show that DiBella referred to as “a mini-concert,” with Furious Five featuring Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio.
The event’s name: “Take Me Out to the Brawl Game.”
DiBella said the night is scheduled to include about 10 matches. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the event begins with fights involving world-class amateurs at 6 p.m. The professional fights are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Friday at squirrelsbaseball.com, with prices ranging from $20 to $150 for the VIP level , and a 10% discount for those who purchase tickets in the first 48 hours (code: RFSBOXING). There is also a 20% military discount.
The Flying Squirrels are scheduled to play in Altoona, Pa., on Aug. 26, and set up near home plate at The Diamond that night will be a boxing ring occupied by professionals with a focus on the heavyweight class, amateurs and a women’s match.
DiBella relocated his Double-A baseball franchise from Norwich, Conn., to Richmond on Sept. 23, 2009, and “honestly, since we first moved, I said to myself, ‘One of these days, I’ll do a fight card at The Diamond,’” said DiBella, 61.
DiBella envisions The Diamond being replaced in the next few years as the Flying Squirrels continue to collaborate with VCU on a plan for a new stadium, and he considered late this season as an appropriate time for boxing at the ballpark that opened in 1985.
“We’re going to adapt this to The Diamond, and it will be really cool,” said DiBella, born and raised in New York City’s Brooklyn borough, and a graduate of Tufts University and Harvard Law School. “But it’s also an example of when we do have a new stadium, a new facility, this is the kind of innovative stuff we can do that we haven’t been doing because the new facility will be more user-friendly and more adaptable to other events.”
DiBella’s research indicates there hasn’t been a significant boxing show in Richmond since 2008, and it’s been longer since there was an outdoor boxing event in Richmond.
“I know there’s a big appetite for sports in Richmond, but I also know that there’s an appetite for stuff you haven’t experienced before. I think that’s what makes it appealing,” he said.
The 10-round main event will match heavyweights Jerry Forrest (26-4-1 with 20 KOs), who’s based in Newport News, and Amron Sands (11-1, nine KOs), from Orlando, Fla.
“I think heavyweights are sort of the big daddies of boxing, and people love to see heavyweights, so the main event features two heavyweights with really good records and should be a really, really good fight,” said DiBella, who formed a partnership in 2005 and for about $10 million bought the baseball franchise that is now the Flying Squirrels.
“The show is going to be heavily dominated by three heavyweight fights.”
That Forrest-Sands match will be preceded by several other fights involving pros in various weight classes and three amateur bouts. The boxing will be followed by the hip-hop, mini-concert.
“The musical main event,” said DiBella.
A disc jockey will provide music before and during the matches. Ringside seating will be available, but most fans will observe from The Diamond’s lower bowl. The stadium seats 9,560, and DiBella would love a sellout, but is not projecting one.
“I want people to see what I do and what a fun boxing show can be,” he said. “We’re not setting it up with the idea of 9,000 people. My anticipation is in the 3,000 sort of range.”
Concessions on sale at The Diamond for Flying Squirrels games will be available on fight night.
The evening will begin with amateur fights featuring U.S. Marines stationed at Fort Lejeune, N.C., who are members of that service branch’s boxing team, and some of the top amateurs in the country.
The event is scheduled to be carried live by Fite.TV and will be broadcast on a delayed basis in 30 million basic cable homes in the U.S., according to DiBella Entertainment. In case of rain, “Take Me Out to the Brawl Game” will be held on Aug. 27.