Bernard Fernandez | Former middleweight Tiberi back in ring as promoter

Posted: July 10, 2007

AFTER A SELF-IMPOSED, 15 1/2-year absence from boxing, former middleweight contender Dave Tiberi is back and this time, he says, he's back to stay.

"Boxing has been a part of me since I was 5 years old. I had six older brothers who boxed," Tiberi, 40, said of the eight professional fight cards he will promote, the first of which takes place Friday night at the Police Athletic League gym in Hockessin, Del. The eight-round main events pits popular New Castle, Del., welterweight Mike "No Joke" Stewart (42-6-2, 23 KOs) against Darien Ford (11-15, 4 KOs).

Not surprising, family ties are what drew Tiberi back to the sport that for so long had been stashed in a part of his heart he was hesitant to revisit. One of the fighters in Friday's lineup is his 19-year-old nephew, cruiserweight Dominick Tiberi, son of his brother Tony, who'll be making his pro debut in a four-rounder against fellow newcomer Dan "Bada Bing" Biddle. Oh, and the show's matchmaker is another of Tiberi's brothers, Nick.

Actor-singer Frank Stallone, brother of Sly, will appear at the event to present a $100,000 check toward the construction of a 5,000-square-foot PAL gym in Tiberi's hometown of New Castle, which was another reason why Dave ended his boxing exile.

"Initially, I was talking about my nephew about managing him," Dave said. "I had done some pad work with Dominick. He's a good athlete - 195 pounds, runs a 4.6 40, bench-presses just under 350 pounds. He graduated from Middletown High in 2006 and played in the Delaware All-Star football game.

"Working with Dominick was a lot of fun. It was exciting for me to be involved in boxing again. But it's not just my nephew now. It's much bigger than that. I was approached by some people about promoting this particular card, and from there it sort of took off into my doing a series of eight that would showcase young fighters from Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey.

"I'm amazed by how much work is involved in putting on a boxing card. But you know what? Even though I was discouraged for a number of years about what was happening in boxing, seeing the enthusiasm these kids have for the PAL and Golden Gloves programs reminded me of how it was for me when I was their age. There was no way I could remain on the sideline any longer when I looked at the situation in those terms.

"There has to be an avenue for these young people to continue their involvement in boxing, and I know I can help. This time, I'm able to do things the right way."

Tiberi is best known for his principled stand - some might call it foolish - to retire from the ring after he lost a controversial split decision to IBF middleweight champion James Toney on Feb. 8, 1992, at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Among those who thought that Tiberi had been wronged were ABC-TV color commentator Alex Wallau and mogul Donald Trump, who pronounced the victory for Toney "disgraceful" and "an embarrassment."

Although the IBF mandated an immediate rematch for which Tiberi would be handsomely compensated, he declined, saying he would lace up the gloves again only if the decision for Toney was overturned on ethical and procedural grounds (the two judges who had him losing were not licensed by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board) and he, Tiberi, was elevated to the championship.

That wasn't about to happen, so Tiberi (22-3-3 with seven knockout victories) walked away at 25, seemingly at his peak. The one-time club fighter who had been paid a career-high $26,000 for the Toney bout says he rejected a base offer of $250,000 for the rematch, with a 2 percent cut of the pay-per-view revenues that might have pushed his total earnings considerably higher.

"I prayed about whether I could live with the decision I had made," Tiberi said. "I could, and I've never looked back. Thank God I have a supportive wife [Angela]. I told her that if I signed a contract for a rematch, it would be tainted. I'd be tainted. It would be like saying that what happened to me was acceptable.

"There was a principle involved. My decision wasn't about money. It was about right and wrong. Everyone has to make his own stand for what he believes in."

The nod for Toney perhaps wasn't that outlandish - my scorecard had Tiberi winning by 114-113, although he had a point deducted in the sixth round by referee Robert Palmer for a low blow - but, like John Wayne probably said in one of his movies, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

B-Hop countdown

HBO Sports will debut a 30-minute special analyzing the July 21 pay-per-view matchup of Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright, "Countdown to Hopkins-Wright," on Saturday, immediately following a HBO "World Championship Boxing" tripleheader that begins at 9 p.m.

HBO Sports will debut a 30-minute special analyzing the July 21 pay-per-view matchup of and , "Countdown to Hopkins-Wright," on Saturday, immediately following a HBO "World Championship Boxing" tripleheader that begins at 9 p.m.

There will be 15 other play dates for the special, which also will be available to HBO On Demand subscribers.

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Send e-mail to fernanb@phillynews.com.

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