The Hearn Boxing Empire

Barry Hearn with son Eddie

There are some boxing promoters who started from nothing and became power houses in the sport. Eddie Hearn is not one of them. It seems that the British boxing public in particular dislikes Hearn because it perceives him as “born with a silver spoon in his mouth”. Well he was.

Thanks to his father Barry, young Eddie came into the multimillion £ family business that already had worldwide success in sports such as snooker, darts, pool, golf, fishing and of course boxing.

Barry Hearn started promoting boxing in 1987 when his first venture featured Frank Bruno vs Joe Bugner at White Hart Lane, the home of Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club in North London. He went on to put on some of the biggest matches that the UK had to offer featuring Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins, Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed , Herbie Hide and others. He enjoyed lucrative TV contracts with Eurosport and Sky Sports as well as with terrestrial TV giants ITV.

Audley Harrison twice Prizefighter winner

In 2008 Barry Hearn came up with the Prizefighter concept, 8 boxers fighting 3 x 3 minute round bouts to find an eventual tournament winner on the night. His paymasters at Sky television have done very well for themselves working with Barry and when young Eddie came on board it seemed that he also had a way of producing great deals for the family business and Sky. So much so that in an unprecedented move, Sky ended their multi-promotional deal with Barry McGuigan, Frank Maloney, Frank Warren and Ricky Hatton to solely show fights promoted by Matchroom Sports. This shook boxing in the UK to its foundations. To most it seemed like an attempt to create a monopoly and kill off the opposition in the process. If it was, it didn’t work.

Frank Warren had taken on Don King in court in the past and come out the other side in one piece. When he entered licensed boxing at the beginning of the 1980’s Warren had to take the British Boxing Board of Control to court for “restraint of trade” just to get a license to promote. He took on the old guard, Mickey Duff and his so called “cartel” who had been in sole control of most major UK boxing for years before. All this as well as an assassination attempt in November 1989. Warren is resilient too say the least.

In 2011 Warren created his boxing only TV channel Box-Nation which has grown into a major UK outlet of some of the world’s top boxing events.

In May 2018 Hearn announced boxing’s first ever $billion boxing/media deal, teaming up with streaming service DAZN. Matchroom Boxing USA have since signed up Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to a $365m, 11 fight deal as well as many of the worlds other top talents. The first event streamed on DAZN was Joshua’s defence against Russian Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium, London.

Canelo signed a $365m deal with DAZN

At this stage it might have seemed that Hearn could dictate terms to all. Apart from DAZN’s bottomless pockets and Sky TV in the UK financing him through PPV, Hearn had a golden goose in Joshua. How could Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury demand a 50/50 split when Joshua could earn as much as their best paydays and more fighting anyone else in the world’s top 15 heavyweights? Enter Frank Warren. Again.

When Fury made his comeback he signed with Warrens Queensbury Promotions. Although he looked less than a top contender beating Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta, Warren and Fury took up an offer to travel to America and challenge unbeaten WBC champion Deontay Wilder (39-0-0 38 KO’s). Madness surely? Wrong again. Fury proved himself equal to the task. Did he win the fight? Who cares? He gets to do it again for a lot more money, everyone’s a winner yes? No. Not Hearn and Joshua. All of a sudden the golden goose is getting booed and being spoken about as a member of a trio instead of the undisputed world No 1. All the interest suddenly switches over to Wilder and Fury.
Now Warren and Fury sign deals with Top Rank and ESPN in America. Sounds familiar? Anything Eddie can do Frank can do as well.
Talk now turns to Fury vs Joseph Parker and Wilder vs Breazeale before a proposed Wilder/Fury rematch in September. Meanwhile Joshua defends his belts against untested New Yorker Jarrell Miller at Madison Square Garden on June 1st.
Now, no disrespect to Jarrell Miller, he has done all that’s been asked of him, but they didn’t ask him to do too much. This looks like a mismatch on paper. Miller hasn’t fought a Klitschko, Povetkin, Parker or Breazeale. Beating Dinu, Adamek, Duhaupas and Wach does not compare. How does Miller handle the biggest stage? We don’t know because he’s never been on it before. Joshua is an old hand by now. Even Wilder and Fury have never boxed in front of a live gate like the ones Joshua has become accustomed to.

Joshua’s was left with Miller or Dillian Whyte. DAZN must have told Hearn that there was no way of selling Joshua vs Whyte II to an American audience at this stage. So Joshua vs Miller is promoted as the American debut for Joshua. Luckily for Hearn,Milller is loud and cocky and has enough personality to sell the fight to enough Americans now that they are only paying $9.99 a month for DAZN. The British audience will buy the £19.95 ($26.54) PPV package just because it’s AJ.

Right now Joshua is playing second fiddle to Wilder and Fury. Warren, Bob Arum and ESPN are conducting this orchestra for now.

It has been said that if you control the heavyweight division you control boxing. Don King would be an advocate of that saying. However, Matchroom USA’s signings of all but one of the world’s top middleweights gives them control of boxing’s current top earners. Canelo and allegedly, soon to be signed Gennady Golovkin currently stand out from the crowd as money magnets. Their two fights produced 2.4m PPV sales in the USA alone.

Interim WBC Middleweight Champ Jermall Charlo

The WBC Interim middleweight champion Jermall Charlo is promoted by Haymon Boxing with his fights going out on Premier Boxing Champions telecasts. Russia’s Matt Korobov stepped in at five days notice to challenge Charlo in his latest fight in December. Charlo won a unanimous decision in a tough fight but doesn’t seem able to bridge the gap to reach the same level as Canelo, Golovkin and Jacobs, and even if he did, he’s unlikely to get those opportunities due to his promotional ties. Charlo must weep when he looks at the money Matchroom USA middleweights are earning.

There are still avenues that Eddie Hearn can visit to strengthen his already formidable grasp on world boxing but he knows by now that he will never have it all his own way.

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