He’s a renaissance man, and, really it seemed like just a question of time before Damon Dash diversified again, following Jay’s lead and getting involved in professional sports. Over a year ago, Damon partnered with promoter Lou DiBella, branching out yet again in one of Dash’s more understated ventures. Frankly I’d love it if more rap cats got involved in athletics, and Lil Flip and Hump followed through and bought the Houston Rockets (or the Comets). But until then keep an eye on Dame’s efforts in boxing. DiBella Entertainment’s latest heavyweight, Fres Oquendo, is looking for a second chance in the sport after being rooked by a number of sources. He told me he came to DiBella because of their reputation for honesty, which, in boxing, is a rare commodity.
DD: Boxing is a work in progress, just like all business. A couple years ago the music business wasn’t fair, and just based on the people that are involved, and how they shed the light on the artists, people know how to get a fair deal and certain things don’t happen any more, and I think in this age of boxing, we’re going to smarten up the boxers, where they’re going to be able to benefit more than anyone else, they’re going to be able to reap the benefits of their efforts. So I like the fact that people recognize that we’re fair guys, and I like the fact that I know that in my heart I’m going to try to do best by the fighters, and if they’re surrounded by nothing but love it’s going to be a good experience for that boxer. So no boxer’s ever going to walk away from us saying that they were treated unfairly. I’m not going to say no boxer’s never going to walk away from us, but I bet when they do they’ll say they we should have stayed with those guys, because we have their best interests at heart.
What have you noticed so far? What has made your business Spidey sense perk up?
DD: It’s a very patient business. There’s a lot of politics involved. But the bottom line is that when you’re winning, and you have a lot of people knowing that you’re winning, there’s not too much you can do to stop certain things. But it’s patient. A lot of boxers want to fight fight fight, they’re young and they want to get in there and test themselves, but you’ve got to pace them, you’ve got to let them learn, you’ve got to let them grow, and in the meanwhile you’ve got to make sure they have a future in boxing, so you look at that. So most of the seeds that we plant now will be in effect in five years, so it’s a patient thing, and that’s cool for me, because I enjoy the sport of boxing and I’m doing it for the love.
But I think it’s very interesting to see how we’re going to change things, and, you know, not to be cocky about it, but you know how we changed things in the business world of music, the music world, and how we changed things in fashion; we’re going to change things here as well, and it’s going to be positive for the sport. We’ve got to think of innovative ways, and creative ways to keep people interested, and having a vested interest in the boxers, especially within the African American community, get some support there, but honestly, with Curtis [Stevens], Showtime, Jaidon [Cordrington], Andre Berto and Gary Starks, what they’ve done in the last year, I don’t think any fighter has done in the world of boxing, as far as people having a vested interest in them. They’re in magazines, and they’re on the cusp of pop culture, meaning what’s going on in this current generation. Look at Curtis, you know, he’s a regular guy, he’s a cool dude. But he’s also a very disciplined individual. So it’s kind of showing, just like me, I’m a businessman, but I look at myself like a cool dude. It shows you can look like a regular guy, act regular, but have the discipline of a professional. It doesn’t make you a nerd or a square. I think there’s a lot of good, especially within him and Berto, there’s a lot of good energy, personality, as long as they keep knocking people out they’re going to reap all the benefits of that.
On yet another front, last year Dash made time in his busy schedule for BET’s Ultimate Hustler. Part Apprentice, part Making the Band, Dash auditioned a protege from a group of live-in, aspiring entrepreneurs, with — well, let’s be honest here — tepid results. There were moments, though. So is Damon going to re-up for a sequel?
DD: We’ll see. I’ve got a day job, I’ve got a couple of them, so if I have the time, I’ll do it. You know, I initially did it to teach the community how to get money and have fun while they do it, and be fair, and things like that. Let’s see. If BET acts straight, maybe I’ll be back.
Was that more of a trying thing than you thought it would be?
DD: Only because of the post of it, like the editing, I had to edit it a lot. I’m a perfectionist, on a lot of levels, and it was my likeness and my brand, so I had to sit in the editing room and make sure everything was there. Because I was there, and a lot gets lost in the editing room, and I wanted certain things to remain there, and also, the production value meant a lot to me, so if you noticed, that’s why it was very stylized. I wanted to keep people’s brains working, and also entertain them, keep them laughing, keep some suspense, and at the same time teach them.