Eddie Hearn (far left), of Matchroom Sport, points to one of his top fighters and friend Carl Froch, who stands next to familiar foe and fellow super middleweight star Mikkel Kessler, flanked by his promoter Kalle Sauerland. Froch defends his IBF title against Kessler in an aticipated May 25 rematch in London.
Referee Earl Brown jumped in to save champion, Lucian Bute, from a brutal Carl Froch onslaught and British boxing history was made on May 26, 2012
Froch, who had become the first British fighter to regain the super middleweight title twice, rushed across the ring in ecstasy, his hands raised. A split second later he was hoisted aloft by friend and promotional stalwart, Eddie Hearn.
Passion is a virtue that Matchroom Sport’s head of boxing shares with the fighters he works with.
Hearn, at 33 years old, has only been taking the business side of boxing seriously for three years but, in that time, he has amassed a stable of fighters that are the envy of any British promoter with a pulse.
At the top of the Matchroom tree stand world champions Carl Froch and Ricky Burns who are supported by top contenders Kell Brook, George Groves, Carl Frampton, Darren Barker and Tony Bellew. All of these fighters are ranked within THE RING’s top 10 in their respective weight categories.
If that isn’t good enough it was also announced last week that former two-divison world champion, David Haye, had signed a four-fight deal with Matchroom. Haye represents the promotional firm’s first heavyweight acquisition.
Matchroom also have an exclusive contract with Sky Sports, the most dominant television sports network in the UK, and the May 25 rematch between Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler will be the first fight shown on Sky Box Office PPV in almost two years.
Ring TV.com spoke to the charismatic promoter about what’s going on in the month of May and beyond.
Ring TV: You were recently up in Glasgow with Ricky Burns at a public workout. What kind of reception did the champion receive?
Eddie Hearn: It was fantastic. As a promoter I’ve done plenty of media days and press conferences and sometimes you get on a plane and wonder if you’re wasting your time. I wasn’t really shocked at the public support because I expected that but I was very impressed by the media turnout. There were at least a dozen photographers, a dozen journalists and five or six television crews so it was a really good day and very worthwhile.
RTV: Jose Gonzalez is Burns’ target this coming Saturday. How do you see the fight going and in what direction will a victory take Ricky’s career?
EH: This is a really tough fight. Gonzalez is a bit raw in terms of technique but he is exactly what you would expect from a big punching Puerto Rican. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think he’s on the same level as Roman Martinez but this guy has a lot of confidence and his team really fancy the job. I’ve been hearing reports that he’s in great shape and this is, without question, one very live opponent. Still, I believe that Ricky Burns is on a completely different level and I’m looking for him to put in a devastating performance on Saturday. I’ve spent a lot of time with him and he’s a very humble and down to earth champion who reminds me a lot of Carl Froch. Ricky just loves to fight and it’s all about boxing and family to him and Froch is the same. I think Ricky can stop Gonzalez and that will pave the way to unifying the lightweight division.
RTV: Kell Brook has sustained an injury which precludes him from challenging Devon Alexander on May 18. How is Kell at the moment and what are the plans for him going forward?
EH: Kell is okay. He’s obviously been down psychologically because we worked for 16 months to secure the mandatory position and, once again, things haven’t worked out. Despite the setbacks I have assured him that we will continue to work as a team at Matchroom to secure the best opportunities possible. He’s still the mandatory challenger with the IBF and after Alexander defends against Purdy on May 18, the champion will be obliged to fight Kell within nine months. Life could be worse, he’s 26 years old, unbeaten in 29 fights and still has a great future ahead of him.
RTV: Brook’s loss is Lee Purdy’s gain but Purdy gets this opportunity with a month to prepare for a very tricky champion in Devon Alexander. Can he pull it off?
EH: I think he can. Lee is up against it and he’s a huge underdog but there are times when you can’t envision any way for the underdog to prevail no matter what happens. In this instance it’s quite simple in that Lee Purdy has to knock Devon Alexander out and he definitely has the power to do that. Lee has nothing to lose and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him, so he took the fight in a heartbeat. The month notice is irrelevant because he’s been in the gym continuously since his last fight and he’ll be in great condition. Lee is capable of pulling off the upset because he has punch power but he is going in against a very good champion in Devon Alexander.
RTV: David Haye has signed a multi-fight deal with Matchroom. Your reaction and what have you got planned for the future?
EH: We’re over the moon and it happened so quickly. I’d been speaking to Adam Booth (Haye’s trainer) about the possibility of David fighting on Sky Sports and we went over what we wanted to accomplish and it just made perfect sense for everybody. We thrashed a deal out and it’s a game changer for Matchroom because now we have a heavyweight. Not only do we have the most entertaining heavyweight but I believe we may have the best heavyweight. It was also important for me to deliver for Sky because this will be David’s first non-pay-per-view show since 2007 and that is great news for the fans. David Haye can sell out large venues and there should be some big dates ahead for British boxing. Vitali Klitschkois a target but people are also talking about Tyson Fury and that is a huge fight.
RTV: Carl Frampton is established as one of the best junior featherweights in the world right now and he’s desperate for a world title shot. There are champions in that division and then there are top calibre superstars. What is the ideal route for Carl from your point of view?
EH: Carl is ranked number three with the IBF and a title fight against Jhonatan Romero is what we want. Initially we were looking at a date in May but Romero has torn his bicep so he’s not going to be back out until September. Right now the mandatory challenger is Jeffery Mathebula, who won an eliminator in March against Takalani Ndlovu, so we will likely get Carl back out on the David Haye card at the end of June and go from there. There are big opportunities out there for Carl and winnable world title fights but we won’t be going near Guillermo Rigondeux because he’s on another level at the moment. Carl knows that but he will be looking to reach that level in the next three to five fights.
RTV: The anticipation surrounding Froch vs. Kessler II has been enormous. You knew it would be big but has the response surpassed your own expectations?
EH: The response, particularly in terms of ticket sales, has been incredible. When a promoter hires out a 19,000 seat arena there is always a bit of trepidation and the tickets were a little more expensive because the fight is in London. One hour after the press conference announcing the fight somebody contacted me to say that we had done 11,000 tickets and by the end of the day we were completely sold out which is just unbelievable. That goes to show you how big this is and to be honest we’re just getting started in terms of advertising the show on Sky. This will a “pure” fight and everyone knows what they’re going to get on the night. Both camps will talk tactics but after two or three rounds all of that will go out the window.
RTV: How satisfying is it for you personally that Carl made the transition from world champion to a household name?
EH: It was very important for me as a promoter but it was also important for Carl to get the acclaim he deserves. I think that when you put that much into the sport and fight the very best in their backyard then you hope to have your accomplishments recognised. Carl didn’t have that initially because he wasn’t aligned with a broadcast partner like he is now. Obviously we’ve helped but Sky has made him the star he’s become and he deserves that. I was saying to Kell Brook the other day that you have to love the sport and, although money comes with success, the sport has to come first in order for you to be the best you can be.
RTV: Tony Bellew takes on Isaac Chilemba in an immediate rematch on the undercard. Are you confident Tony can make the adjustments second time around?
EH: I am but I think it’s a tough fight. Tony fancies the job and Chilemba fancies the job so I think it’s going to be very entertaining. Tony knows what he’s got to do and he will be devising the game plan to improve on his last performance. He has less pressure this time because everyone is talking about Froch and Kessler so he just has to get down to business.
RTV: George Groves is also scheduled to appear against Noe Gonzalez Alcoba. What are the plans for Groves should he be victorious?
EH: This is a pivotal time for George because he’s ranked very high with most of the governing bodies and it’s time to choose the road he wants to travel. Alcoba is a tougher test than many people think and, although he lost to Felix Sturm and Adonis Stevenson, this guy is far from being an idiot. When you look at George’s opposition you would have to say that James DeGale is the best opponent he’s faced thus far so I expect Alcoba to ask questions of him. That said I expect George to come though this fight and in September it will be time for him to make his mark.
RTV: Have you managed to catch the Floyd Mayweather -Robert Guerrero fight and can you see Floyd taking a fight in the UK as rumoured?
EH: I haven’t seen the fight yet and I don’t believe that Floyd will come to the UK. Who’s he going to fight? If he’s over here it has to be Khan or Brook because a fight against an American won’t work. Guerrero, as good a fighter as he is, wasn’t on Mayweather’s level and I’m told that people were walking out of the arena after the 10th and 11th rounds.
Photos / Scot Heavey and Andrew Redington, Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing