The role of a boxing promoter is perilous and an unbeaten record is impossible to maintain. You can be flying high one week and the next you are forced to crash land with an almighty thud, with sympathy in short supply.
Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable has enjoyed several bright moments this year and the good has far outweighed the bad. Ricky Burns, Carl Froch, George Groves, Kell Brook, Scott Quigg and Darren Barker have all got off to a positive start and intriguing matchups lie ahead for several of Britain’s brightest stars.
In the long-term future, Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua, two Olympic gold medalists from London 2012, have signed up for paid assignments under the Matchroom wing and expectations for the former amateur standouts are extremely high.
Hearn also has a vested interest in the enormous David Haye vs. Tyson Fury showdown, scheduled for Sept. 28 at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester. He has adopted a co-promoter role with Hayemaker and will work in tandem with Hennessy Promotions to produce Britain’s biggest heavyweight encounter since Lennox Lewis vs. Frank Bruno in 1993.
Haye vs. Fury will feature on Sky Box Office Pay Per View in the U.K., and Hearn is keen to see this platform expand in a bid to create the biggest and best fights available. According to the London-based promoter, Kell Brook, amongst others, may have reason to be excited should these plans come to fruition.
RingTV spoke to Hearn about what the future holds in part two of an exclusive interview.
Ring TV: It’s just over a month until Haye vs. Fury. What is your take on the fight?
Eddie Hearn: You have to favor Haye’s experience, speed and punch power. However, has he been active enough? Is he motivated? Is he still fit? Is he still hungry? All of these issues make it interesting and when you look at Fury; he’s young, hungry, active and extremely game.
Still, it’s about levels in this sport. I was watching Tyson Fury on Sky Sports, who by the way is an excellent self-promoter, extremely intelligent and knows plenty about boxing. Anyway, he was on Ringside and I was saying, ‘bloody hell, Tyson has a real chance in this fight’ and then up came a clip of the (Steve) Cunningham fight and I said no, he doesn’t have a chance.
I just think if David is motivated and fit he’ll have way too much for him. Also, I don’t think Fury is a devastating puncher and let’s be honest Haye took some big shots from Wladimir Klitschko and was never badly hurt. This will be a fun fight and I’m looking forward to it.
RTV: Junior featherweight Scott Quigg has a WBA title shot against Yoandris Salinas on the Haye vs. Fury undercard. How is Scott feeling about that level of exposure and being so close to his goal?
EH: He’s buzzing right now. Scott signed with Matchroom when this fight was already in the pipeline, so as much as I would like to take all the credit I can only take some of it.
We had the option of doing Quigg vs. Salinas on a separate show but it made sense to do it on the Haye-Fury card. It would have been a main event either a week before, or after, in the same part of the country and that would have been commercial suicide. Quigg is boxing a high quality opponent in Salinas and now he’ll have 20,000 people there to support him, which is a big advantage.
Also, the people who are saying it’s not a real world title fight are wrong. If the WBA want to elevate Guillermo Rigondeaux to “super champion” because he unified, that’s not our fault. Quigg vs. Salinas is a legitimate title fight and if Scott wins we’ll also look to unify and give the WBA real problems because then they’ll have two unified champions.
RTV: Kell Brook looked good against Carson Jones in the rematch. What were your thoughts?
EH: Kell was in a similar position to Darren Barker with injuries postponing fights and holding things back. He was so down on himself and has been really unlucky over the last eighteen months.
Prior to the first scheduled match with Devon Alexander his injury was more of a niggle and, in hindsight, we should have perhaps went through with the fight. Still, it was important for Kell to be in perfect shape and you can’t blame him for that.
The second time he was in beast mode and we believe Kell would have stopped Alexander had that fight went ahead. Still, when Devon tore his bicep it seemed to break Kell mentally and he never recovered. A ten-week camp had been for nothing, so he went on holiday, came back too heavy and a serious foot injury caused a third postponement.
Kell still wasn’t there mentally six weeks out from the Jones rematch and I told him to get on with it, which kicked him into gear. He started like a train against Jones, looked spectacular, got a bit sloppy but finished well and that was him at about 70 percent capacity.
RTV: Vyacheslav Senchenko is another good test. What would your plans be for Brook should he be successful in Sheffield?
EH: Senchenko is definitely a hard test and although people want Kell to fight King Kong this, by far, is the best opponent he has been in with. Commercially, Senchenko ended Ricky Hatton’s career, which is a great selling point for us but he’s a former world champion who is coming to win.
If Kell comes through then I will go immediately to either Amir Khan or Adrien Broner for spring or summer in the UK.
RTV: Adrien Broner for Kell Brook?
EH: Yes. You see there are fans that dislike pay-per-view but what it does is present opportunities to make crazy fights and Brook vs. Broner is my idea of a crazy fight. Fans would turn around and say ‘where the hell did that come from?’
Pay-per-view creates a revenue stream capable of bringing a fighter like Broner over here to fight one of our own for a world title. In the U.K., Brook vs. Broner is an enormous fight. Brook vs. Khan, between two Brits, is an enormous fight.
At the end of the day the winner of Alexander vs. Khan would be obligated to fight Kell anyway. If Khan wins he may elect to fight Mayweather in a unification fight, which would supersede his mandatory, but I don’t see that happening.
I spoke to Amir the other day and when you look at the numbers for a pay-per-view fight against Kell, with a gate of approximately 30,000, there is no bigger fight out there. If he really believes he beats Brook then he has to take the fight.
RTV: How receptive was Amir to making a fight with Brook?
EH: Very, because everyone is receptive to money. I’ve had discussions with Richard Schaefer in relation to both Brook vs. Khan and Brook vs. Broner. When you sit down and look at the numbers you can’t ignore them and when U.S. television is involved these fights will present huge paydays.
I don’t know what Broner makes for a fight. Let’s say $1.5 million. He’d get double that for a fight with Kell Brook over here. That is too big to ignore and that is the beauty of the pay-per-view model.
We can’t flood the market with them but pay-per-view does present the opportunity to make boxing huge again with events of this magnitude.
RTV: Nathan Cleverly was badly beaten by Sergey Kovalev. Your reaction?
EH: When I was in the States for the Barker-Geale fight I had at least forty people ask me why Nathan Cleverly was facing Kovalev.
It has been reported that Nathan’s purse was average and there were no options or rematch clause. If you’re going to gamble, then gamble for big money, not a small pay rise. I told people in the U.S. that I thought Nathan could win on points and I got laughed out of town all week. Something wasn’t right because too many people said he had no chance whatsoever.
Moving from (Tommy) Karpency, (Shawn) Hawk and (Robin) Krasniqi to Kovalev was crazy but let’s be honest, we still don’t know how good the Russian is. Is he really a Golovkin? Kovalev looks like he can fight but Nathan simply got caught early and didn’t recover. He was never in the fight.
Perhaps Frank (Warren) was under pressure to deliver for Nathan but it’s his job to do the right thing. Cleverly has been dispatched on his own turf and quite honestly I don’t know how you come back from that. He’s young and he’s an excellent fighter, but recent quotes suggest he may pursue something else.
Nathan also hasn’t helped his profile by calling out Froch, who, on the basis of that performance, would have stopped him in three rounds. He should have been in with the likes of Glen Johnson a couple of years ago or the Tavoris Clouds of the world and enhanced his profile. The issue must have been money because that arena in Cardiff holds about 5,000 people and there were empty seats.
The toughest fight Cleverly has had was Tony Bellew, who only had sixteen professional fights at the time, and he gave him life or death. Bellew, it must be said, has improved vastly since then.
Nathan isn’t part of our team but you don’t want to see that happen to any British fighter. It was very hard to watch and even after the first round there were people in the crowd looking at each other as if to say, ‘this doesn’t seem right.’ It was a man against a boy.
RTV: When does the Froch vs. Groves train start rolling and will the fight be pay-per-view?
EH: Until we announce the fight formally it’s not, and the answer is things have to be right for it to be pay-per-view. Do I believe Froch vs. Groves is a pay-per-view fight? Yes I do, but some people don’t, so I have to build a show that converts those who say it’s not worthy.
Let’s be honest here, how many fans watch standard undercard fights? Let’s say 10 percent. I’m involved with the Haye vs. Fury show and that has a great undercard, so Froch vs. Groves should provide something similar. I think it needs another world title fight along with it, maybe Ricky Burns, or Scott Quigg – if he wins the title.
Also, I want some huge domestic bouts like maybe Anthony Crolla vs. Kevin Mitchell and we can also showcase the Olympians, Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua.
To be honest I didn’t expect three pay-per-view shows in eight months, but it could work out that way because British boxing is flying right now and it will continue to get bigger.
That said, someone asked me the other day if I think Darren Barker vs. Martin Murray is a pay-per-view fight and I said no, because Martin’s profile is too low right now. Do I think Quigg vs. Frampton is pay-per-view? No, because Scott and Carl’s profiles aren’t big enough. If they both win world titles then absolutely it can be pay-per-view. I look at individual ratings and Frampton always rated poor and Quigg, on a stand-alone show, would be slightly better but of a similar ilk.
Froch, on the other hand, always did massive numbers on Sky, as did Kell Brook. We took Kell from 150,000 viewers to 600,000 viewers and that takes a lot of work. People get frustrated with pay-per-view but sometimes it’s required to make the biggest and best fights. I would rather make a fight and give people a choice to buy it than not make it at all.
Pay-per-view also injects money back into the sport and financially it helps us provide better quality for Sky Sports Boxing. At the start of this season we’ll announce four really good international fights, which will raise a few eyebrows, and that will hopefully be the start of Sky being back in business with top international bouts.
We have great momentum at the moment and obviously Matchroom are doing really well but we know that can change.
RTV: What do you think of Froch vs. Groves as a fight?
EH: Well, I think when the press conference takes place it will be fantastic because there is no love lost. There is very little respect between them and I think it will go off – not fisticuffs, but it’ll be entertaining. Carl doesn’t think George deserves the fight, based on what he’s achieved by comparison. He may have a case, but that’s not George’s problem and we have a great fight in prospect.
For Part 1 of this interview CLICK HERE.
Photos: Scott Heavey-Gettyimages (4); Paul Thomas-Gettyimages
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing