Eddie Hearn cemented his status as the most ambitious promoter in world boxing by hosting a series of high-profile bouts in his back garden this summer. The Fight Camp series in Brentwood, Essex, has drawn comparisons to UFC Fight Island thanks to the diligence and ingenuity Hearn has displayed. The charismatic promoter called it “the greatest idea we’ve ever had” and pledged to extend the series if necessary.
The Fight Camp project set Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing back £5 million, but the firm is now reaping the rewards. WBC interim heavyweight champion Dillian Whyte is gearing up to fight former heavyweight world champion Alexander Povetkin there on August 22, and it promises to be a big pay-per-view event.
It is just one example of Hearn’s unyielding quest for growth as he bids to lead his father’s empire to glorious new heights. In May 2018, Hearn tied up boxing’s first $1 billion deal with streaming service DAZN. He now stages 32 live shows per year on DAZN – 16 in the UK and 16 in the US – and he has built up a formidable stable of fighters.
A Trailblazing Approach
Anthony Joshua, Vasyl Lomchenko, Katie Taylor, Josh Warrington, Oleksandr Usyk, Tony Bellew, Joseph Parker, Billy Joe Saunders, Amir Khan and Kell Brook are among the superstars that Hearn has promoted over the past decade. He has also signed co-promotional deals with the likes of Gennady Golovkin and Devin Haney.
Yet it is his willingness to take risks that defines Hearn’s meteoric rise to the summit of boxing. He drew considerable criticism for staging a professional bout between YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul in November 2019 – veteran promoter Bob Arum was among the famous names to slam the fight – but it proved to be a roaring success. The fight received more PPV buys than Joshua’s first showdown with Andy Ruiz Jr., despite costing half as much to promote.
Hearn brushed off the criticism, arguing that the two novices brought boxing to new audiences. “It was a big subscription driver as well,” said Hearn. “It wasn’t just those two key territories [the UK and the US], it was all those other little territories. When we look at the breakdown on Fite TV, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Eastern Europe, Africa – it was everywhere. You don’t realize the audience these guys have. They brought our sport to reach new ground and reach new territories, new demographics and new markets.”
The Hearn Dynasty
Hearn has also spearheaded boxing’s push into the Middle East. He drew more criticism for staging the rematch between Joshua and Ruiz Jr. in Saudi Arabia, a country with a poor human rights record. Yet Hearn defended that decision, stating that Saudi Arabia wants to improve its image and that his job “is to provide the best opportunities for our fighters”.
The fight was another big success, as Joshua recaptured his belts in style and Matchroom made a large profit. Hearn is now brokering the biggest fight in British boxing history, pitting Joshua against Tyson Fury – promoted by rival Frank Warren – in a world heavyweight title unification battle. He says the two men have agreed a deal, and it could prove to be the biggest fight of the generation, while the boxing betting would go through the roof.
Warren has previous said that Hearn “needs a slap”, arguing that his father Barry runs the business and that “the kid just goes off talking rubbish”. Yet that could not be further from the truth. Barry Hearn built the business, but Eddie Hearn has turned it from a modest UK promotional firm to a global titan. Barry now admits that he essentially works for his son, who generally strives to impress his dad on a daily basis.
When asked if he will ever prove himself to his father, he said: “I think I have. He would never have expected me to achieve what we’ve achieved, because he couldn’t do it. Again, I know I had a head start, but he never got a US TV deal. He never sold out Wembley. He never did a big site deal with the Middle East and got tens of millions out of them.”
Warren is now taking a very different tone, urging Hearn to join forces with his own Queensbury Promotions for cross-promotional clashes. Yet it is clear that Hearn has no interest in sharing power.
“The drive for me, my plan, is to control boxing,” said Hearn in typically candid fashion during a recent interview. “That is the only way I see 100% pure success in my head, to control this sport globally and have a single entity running boxing like the UFC.”
He knows that boxing is more popular than MMA and believes it has a greater chance of future success, thanks to its long heritage, but he feels he needs greater autonomy in order to outperform UFC. “I want to change the sport for the better and the only way I can get the sport to where I wanted to be is to have that model like the UFC,” added Hearn. “We’re a bigger sport than UFC but they have it right.”
Hearn faces significant obstacles as he attempts to making his dream a reality. Vanquishing Warren in the UK is one thing, but going to the US and taking on Al Haymon, Arum and co is another matter entirely.
Yet Hearn has all the ingredients to pull it off. The DAZN deal means he is backed by the largest war chest in boxing. He has already shaken up the US boxing scene since he entered the landscape in 2018, and signed up many big name fighters in a short time, including Haney, Usyk, Demetrius Andrade and Daniel Jacobs.
He continues to sell out arenas in the UK, but he has no plans to restrict himself to one market. Hearn is a slick talker, a consummate salesman, the darling of a million memes on social media – check out “No Context Hearn” if you have been living under a rock for the past few years – and fuelled by a burning desire to prove himself to his father, so you would not want to bet against him controlling boxing at some point in the future.