Boxing is a Brit thing, if we’re taking a world view on the sport.
America, it’s good to come over here and widen the scope of attention and arguably we are still the media capital of the world, Trump tweets demeaning us not withstanding…But more and more, decisions are made and fights are made and venues are chosen based on the fact that Brit fans are passionate sons of guns, and they prove it by packing arenas. And, too, stadiums, if the movement on ticket buying to watch Anthony Joshua, the well put together heavyweight in physique and demeanor, versus Wladimir Klitschko in March is an indicator. Joshua, who could go far in re-flating the sport in the eyes of the casuals who have not been flocking to us, is an ace in the Eddie Hearn deck.
Eddie Hearn, a long and lean promoter who learned the job from his pop, Barry, who was a bigwig in the sphere, with the Mickey Duffs and Frank Warrens and Frank Maloneys and such in the UK in decades past, is front and center leading the charge.
He’s got dimples and a presentation to match them; he cuts a fine figure as a person who doesn’t seem like he’s selling you a car with a carburetor problem. And plus he doesn’t as much over sell as we’ve become accustomed to, doesn’t proclaim every damn match must see. In short, he can BS to a needed degree but doesn’t overdose listeners and watchers on it.
Hearn is in town, in NY, this week as his guy James DeGale seeks to add to his title take, and rip the strap off Badou Jack tonight, in Brooklyn and on Showtime.
That super middleweight tango tops the card and the TV presentation at Barclays Center.
I chatted with Hearn at Barclays Center Friday, at the weigh in. I asked him for an update on one of his prime aces, Kell Brook, who holds a 147 belt and last time out lost the fight but won fans when he went to 160 to challenge Gennady Golovkin.
“I want Kell to go to 154, I think he’s a better fighter at 154,” Hearn told me. “I love the Amir Khan fight, that’s a huge fight in Britain.” Like, 80 thousand butts in seats at Wembley huge?
“Yeah, basically,” he said. “And then we have the Errol Spence fight, that’s a big trade fight, but not huge outside. Spence is a tough guy and again, Kell has to boil down to 147 pounds. To do that against Khan, might be worth it, risk reward. We’ve had some positive chat, some good meetings, with the Khan people.”
If that goes down, Hearn said the end of May makes sense.
Purse bids for Spence v Brook are set for next month, so who knows where that wind blows.
“And we’ve been talking to Bob about a Pacquiao fight, so that potentially later in the year, maybe October. 160 was too much, but Kell looked well, he was very fit, very strong. I think the end of day we have to make sure we do what’s right to make him the best fighter at the end of the day.”
Hearn is a fan, it is clear, he isn’t just there to pan for gold. He gets excited about fights he doesn’t even promote, as when he started talking about how he thinks Floyd Mayweather would beat, maybe, Gennady Golovkin. This obvious affinity for the product has resonated with his nation and those surrounding. Hearn spoke on the status of the UK as a world boxing power, and I put it to him, how can we in the US replicate that. “I said at the presser, we’re renowned for having big hearts, but we’ve not always had the skill,” Hearn told me. “Now we’ve got the heart and the skill and that makes us very difficult to beat.”
He said the mass of the US makes it harder; in England, smaller on the map, he makes city versus city bouts, which engineers caring in the fans. Rivalries are built up, Brits vs Brits. “In England, you are built up in your home city,” he noted.
They don’t much travel from Cincy to AC to see Adrien Broner. Sheffield follows Kelly to London, for sure. Their ardor translates and transcends and has put Brit boxing above the American brand. Watch tonight, the Brit fans will be effervescent and screaming, Hearn said.
Handing out freebies to fans isn’t working; the fans that show up aren’t enthused. Also, he knows personalities are so important. Hello, he said, Conor McGregor, and UFC. We know this, no personality has pulled away following the exit of Floyd Mayweather. We need that charisma to attract fans and grab eyeballs.
“I was so shocked Ward and Kovalev wasn’t the event I thought it could be,” Hearn said. The undercard was meh, and it struck him.
Back to his boxers. Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko is being bid on by HBO and Showtime. “Generally, what it always comes down to is who wants to pay the most money,” he stated, noting he’d like to stay loyal to Showtime, being they signed AJ to a long term deal. And, he said, HBO has been in the Klitschko business. We should know in a week how that US rights scenario plays out.
My take: Watch Hearn, and listen, and pick up pointers. Part of it is innate, he has a certain charm that is or isn’t there. Plus, he learned from pop, the ground up. But if you don’t know of him, get to knowing. He has power in the field and it is only growing.