IT didn’t take long for the inevitable to occur. Eddie Hearn is again being cast as the villain after a triumphant summer spent planning, hosting and executing a four-week fight festival in the grounds of Matchroom HQ.
Twenty-eight days that saw Hearn exhibit his unquestionable love for the sport of boxing and its fans reignite their love for him.
For good reason, too. There were bouts laced with drama, crossover rivalries and plenty of ‘trade’ fights to keep the hardcore faithful happy. And best of all, after a barren and dark period, three out of four events – loaded with fights, fireworks and forgotten razzmatazz – could be watched for free.
Suddenly, though, Hearn is back in the line of fire. Not even a recent bout with coronavirus could persuade hardcore boxing fans to drop their weapons.
The rapid change of opinion should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Eddie Hearn story develop over the last decade. He came along at a time when the sport needed redirection. Hearn was confident, good to the fighters he promoted and in turn to the fans he promoted them to. Armed with a gift for communication, he dived headfirst into boxing’s social media revolution and swam with all his might.
Yet it only took a few years before those waves he played such a huge part in creating started to swirl and turn against him.
Why? He got greedy. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
Pay-per-views became the order of the day. A sturdy short-term business plan but one in danger of implosion further down the road. His supporters will, and should, point to nights full of excitement, to attendance records being broken, to gender barriers being dislodged and interest in the sport soaring. The views of his detractors, who blame him for starting a trend of unsustainable wages being paid to leading boxers and in turn box office becoming standard rather than extra special fare, are also worth listening to.
So here we go again. Hero to villain.
But perhaps the crux of so many people’s negative feelings towards him is that he’s most certainly not gone from hero to zero. He continues to succeed, he continues to generate money and even in these most unpredictable of environments, he continues to do things his own way in a manner that suggest he’s been here before. Irrespective of what he gets wrong, Eddie Hearn remains a brilliant businessman and it’s rare indeed that you’ll find a fighter, either on-record or off, say a bad word about him. That last point should count as a huge positive when all is said and done.
So here we are in a pandemic-ravaged 2020 and Hearn is announcing three pay-per-view shows (Oleksandr Usyk-Dereck Chisora, Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte II and Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev) to close out the year. Worse than that, or so it seems in the days leading up to Vasiliy Lomachenko versus Teofimo Lopez, it’s all his fault we won’t be able to watch live coverage of that fight because Sky Sports – via Hearn – would not pay enough for a fight that will start at 4am and contains two fighters largely alien to anyone outside of boxing.
So not only is Eddie Hearn responsible for bleeding boxing fans dry in an effort to recoup what must be significant losses, he’s responsible for not giving us the fight we really want to see.
It doesn’t matter that the fights we’re being asked (not forced) to shell out for are all appealing pieces in a heavyweight jigsaw both long in the making and (at last) so close to completion. It doesn’t matter that six months ago the sport was on its backside and such high-profile bouts seemed impossible. Nor does it matter that BT Sport and other UK networks also decided against shelling out to secure Lomachenko-Lopez during the grimmest economic era of our lifetimes or that Fite.TV will be showing the bout after all.
No, what matters is that Eddie Hearn, after getting our hopes up by giving us some good stuff for free, is once again Eddie-bloody-Hearn, arguably the most divisive figure in British boxing history, and back in the old routine.