Lou DiBella earned his law degree from Harvard, but it’s his relationship with Edgar Santana that convinces the promoter his boxer is innocent of the drug charges that threaten his freedom and boxing career. That’s why Santana of Spanish Harlem is headlining Wednesday night’s Broadway Boxing card at B.B. King’s.
“I’m proceeding as if it’s business as usual,” DiBella said yesterday. “I’m treating him no different. Until it’s proven to me otherwise, he’s innocent.”
Santana was arrested in his Spanish Harlem apartment on July 18, charged with conspiring in a cocaine-trafficking network. An extensive wire-taping investigation led to Santana’s arrest. He pleaded not guilty to two felony charges and posted $150,000 bail after spending five days in jail. The arrest stunned the Spanish Harlem community, where Santana is viewed as a role model for his work ethic and dedication. When arrested, he was considered a fringe contender for a junior welterweight title, having won 19 of his last 20 fights en route to a 25-3 record with 15 knockouts. He returns to the ring Wednesday night to face rugged Luis Rodriguez of Mexico, who is 22-2 with 13 KOs.
“I’m putting him into a real fight,” DiBella said of Santana’s first fight since April. “But he’s in great shape. Basically, he’s doing nothing but training. He’s pretty much living in the gym.”
A boxer having legal trouble isn’t uncommon in a sport where most of the participants come from difficult backgrounds. Santana, who was born in Puerto Rico, was viewed as someone who was overcoming those odds. But as DiBella pointed out: “When you’re from the streets and starting to have some success, the guys you grew up with gravitate toward you and it can be a very tough dance. It’s not so easy to ignore people you should ignore, especially when those guys are big guys in the neighborhood.”
DiBella has a hard time believing Santana had anything to do with drug trafficking.
“He grew up in Spanish Harlem,” DiBella said. “Does he know some street guys? Of course he does. Did he have conversations with people that could have some issues? Maybe he did. But his manager and his attorney are confident he’s going to be exonerated.”
In the co-feature Wednesday, two former junior welterweight title holders meet in a rematch when Randall Bailey (37-6, 34 KOs) faces DeMarcus Corley (31-9, 17 KOs) in an eight-rounder. Corley won a decision over Bailey in 2003. Staten Island’s Gary Stark Jr. (21-2, 8 KOs) is also on the card, along with Will Rosinsky (2-0, 2 KOs) from Queens, and 2008 National Golden Gloves champion Tor Hamer, a Penn State graduate, who is making his pro debut at heavyweight.
DiBella Entertainment is partnering with Everlast to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month. Everlast will supply a pink canvas and pink corner cushions for the card and the boxers will wear pink Everlast gloves.
Tickets remain available and are priced at $150 (ringside table, ringside seats), $100 (floor tables, floor seats, stage seats), $70 (general admission). They are available by calling DiBella Entertainment at (212) 947-2577.