Hearn: Boxing can be second biggest sport
A LITTLE over a year after staging the biggest fight in British boxing history, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has not downsized the scale of his ambition.
“In six years, I think we can make this the No2 sport in the country,” Hearn told City A.M.
“We’ve made [UK] boxing trendy again,” says Hearn, reflecting on a year in which he has celebrated world title wins with three of his fighters and staged a number of successful shows throughout the country which have increased the pugilist’s pull in stadiums and on TV.
“We’ve made it sexy again, a night out. One of the benefits that I’ve got is I’m younger than my Dad, Frank Warren, Kellie Maloney,” he explains, name checking the longstanding powerbrokers from the sport’s older generation.
“My Dad couldn’t be as successful as I’m being now because I know the market and he doesn’t. We used to see, and Matchroom were at fault as well, too many shows in small halls and leisure centres, too many empty seats, not enough glamour in the production.
“It’s just like darts,” says Hearn, pointing to Matchroom Sport’s other primary money-spinner. “Every Thursday you’ll turn on the [Darts] Premier League, there’s 12,000 people and an atmosphere – you’ve never seen anything like it. You’ve bitten. You’ve bought. You’re a buyer.
“The key for us is bigger nights, bigger stadiums and driving ticket sales. You’ve got to work hard on that and create an atmosphere in the arena.”
Matchroom’s ability to fill an arena was demonstrated at Hearn’s Rule Britannia bash in May, when a young crowd packed out the O2 Arena for the showcase of some of Matchroom’s biggest and best pugilists including rising star Anthony Joshua.
Joshua returns to Greenwich on Saturday night for another Matchroom production in which the 2012 Olympic Champion will fight Gary Cornish for the vacant Commonwealth Heavyweight title.
With 13 wins, 13 knockouts and no losses, Hearn is betting on Joshua as a future heavyweight champion of the world.
But what is more, Hearn believes Joshua has the natural charm to be attractive to advertisers and could be the fighter to extend Matchroom’s sponsorship contracts beyond its current staple of gambling, alcohol and sports nutrition.
“There comes a stage when the bigger brands are going to come in and get behind someone like Anthony Joshua,” he explains. “They’ll do that and he will change boxing – if he keeps winning, which I believe he will.”
“In any sport you need role models. The reason golf was so popular in America a few years ago is because young kids wanted to be Tiger Woods. In basketball they wanted to be Michael Jordan. In boxing it’s no different but we haven’t had those breakaway stars for a while.
“We’ve got Floyd Mayweather who walks around spending money – that’s not really the role model I’m after. You look at Joshua and you say ‘this is a guy who was bang in trouble growing up and didn’t really have a future. He started boxing and it changed his life. He became an Olympic champion and he will go on and win a heavyweight title’.”
Log onto the City A.M. website: www.cityam.com to read an extended interview with Eddie Hearn.