New Platform Seeks Monday Night Landing

The letters MNF, found everywhere from television listings to pro football publications, are understood to stand for “Monday Night Football.”

But promoter Lou DiBella wants to change that. When people see MNF, he also wants them to think of “Monday Night Fights.” And toward that end, he is inaugurating Monday night at the Statehouse Convention Center Little Rock, Ark., a pay-per-view show he hopes will become a series.

Headlining the show will be a World Boxing Assn. light-flyweight championship match between champion Rosendo Alvarez (31-2-1, 21 knockouts) and challenger Beibis Mendoza (29-1, 24). Also on the card will be three 10-rounders: middleweights Jermain Taylor (14-0, 10), a bronze medalist in the 2000 Olympics, against Marcos Primera (14-3-1, 9), lightweights Angel Manfredy (40-6-1, 29) and Moises Pedroza (24-4-1, 21), and heavyweights Derek Bryant (16-0, 14) and Eric Kirkland (14-1, 10).

Originally scheduled as the main event was a World Boxing Organization junior-bantamweight title fight between Mark Johnson and Fernando Montiel, but Montiel had to cancel because of a hand injury.


DiBella has no illusions. He knows the names listed on the card are not going to excite the general public, set pay-per-view records or cause the Las Vegas casinos to bid wildly to stage the next show. But, as Taylor’s promoter, DiBella needed to find a showcase card for his fighter and he sees a market he believes he can tap into.

“We are not expecting to attract the guy who only buys an Oscar De La Hoya or a Mike Tyson fight,” DiBella said. “We are looking for the guy who already knows who Rosendo Alvarez is, the guy who already knows who Jermain Taylor is, the guy who goes to boxing Web sites. We are not looking to get 100,000 homes. We are looking to build up to 40,000 to 50,000 homes.”

And to build up to that level, DiBella figured he’d attempt to reach a sports audience geared to “Monday Night Football” and perhaps looking for a substitute until the fall.

“I’ve always thought Monday night would be good for fights,” he said. “Why does it have to be Saturday night? ‘Monday Night Football’ gets such a huge audience, partially because people like coming home from work after a weekend of sports and having another sporting event to watch. And right now, there is nothing else going on.

“The other good thing, if you develop Monday night, is that you never have to compete with other boxing shows. Plus, a lot of people would rather kill a few hours on a Monday night watching boxing than to spend a whole Saturday night. I know a lot of wives would sure like that.”

DiBella envisions perhaps as many as six Monday night shows revolving around, but never going head to head with, “Monday Night Football.”

Perhaps with that many, DiBella could show a profit, but not on this show.

“It doesn’t really matter,” DiBella said, “because the bottom line is, I had to do it anyway. I owed Jermain good money against a decent opponent. I had to honor my contract. I don’t let my fighters sit on the shelf for 10 months or a year.


“Right now, there is no platform for in-between fighters like Jermain Taylor or Rosendo Alvarez, guys who cannot yet headline the big pay-per-view shows, but are certainly not club fighters. They are too expensive for ESPN or Fox, but they don’t yet hit the radar screen of HBO or Showtime. That is unfortunate.

“What I want to do is put on great fights and see if we can create a platform.”


Been Here, Done This


DiBella is not the first to try “Monday Night Fights.” ABC put on a four-fight Monday night extravaganza in 1980, including one bout featuring heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and another with welterweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard.

But not even the broadcast talent of Howard Cosell could sustain that series.

And unlike the show this Monday, that one was on free TV.



Big Talk, Small Man

World Boxing Council lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to insist he can move up from his 135-pound division, hop over the 140- and 147-pounders, and immediately take on De La Hoya, the 154-pound champion.

“Someday we will fight,” said Mayweather. “Believe me, it will happen. And just before we start the fight, when we walk to the center of the ring, we’ll tap gloves and I’ll look straight into his eyes and say, ‘This is for all the marbles, Oscar.’ ”

Sounds like Mayweather may have lost his marbles. Since Roy Jones jumped from light-heavyweight to heavyweight at the start of this month and beat WBA champion John Ruiz, other fighters want to emulate Jones.


Keep in mind it had been more than a century since a fighter who started out at middleweight, as did Jones, had beaten a heavyweight champion. Keep in mind Jones, universally recognized as one of the best fighters pound for pound, beat a very average heavyweight in Ruiz.

Keep in mind that De La Hoya, who has shown no interest in fighting Mayweather, is himself one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Of course, when you are Mayweather and your next fight is in Fresno against relative unknown Victoriano Sosa, and you envision bursting into the De La Hoya spotlight and earning what you call “Oscar money,” you talk loud and you talk long and you talk big to try to make it happen.

No matter how unrealistic such a fight might be.