DiBella seemed to be able to get through to the stubborn Hopkins, finally arranging for his entry into promoter Don King's middleweight championship unification series in 2001. The move guaranteed Hopkins seven-figure paydays after never having earned more than about $500,000 for a fight.
The three-fight tournament was designed as a platform for superstar Felix Trinidad to move up in weight and become the undisputed middleweight champ. Hopkins, along with other titleholders Keith Holmes and William Joppy, were the others involved.
Hopkins defeated Holmes and Trinidad knocked out Joppy in the spring semifinals to set the stage for the high-profile final in September 2001.
Two weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Hopkins shocked the Madison Square Garden crowd by knocking out Trinidad in the 12th round to become the first undisputed middleweight champ since Marvelous Marvin Hagler in the 1980s.
DiBella cried tears of joy at ringside. A few days later, as a thank you for what DiBella had done for his career, Hopkins presented him with gloves he said he wore in the Trinidad fight.
DiBella was deeply touched by the gesture.
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It was their last happy moment together.
Hopkins dumped DiBella as his adviser shortly thereafter. But he didn't just walk away from DiBella, he dropped bombs making the exit.
Hopkins told several reporters that while DiBella was still an HBO executive, he had extorted $50,000 from him in exchange for giving him a slot on a boxing telecast.
DiBella, with his golden reputation in doubt, sued Hopkins for libel and defamation in a nasty, highly emotionally-charged trial. During the trial, DiBella was stunned to learn during testimony from Hopkins that the gloves he had presented DiBella with were not the authentic fight-worn mitts. Hopkins had given him the backup pair.
It was just one more dagger to DiBella's heart.
In late 2003, DiBella won a $610,000 judgment -- although not the $30 million he sought -- and later had an appeal upheld, although Hopkins has yet to pay.