My life as a boxing promoter, by Eddie Hearn (Part II)
AFTER Audley Harrison lost to David Haye, and all the stick I got from it, I was certain I was finished in boxing. It was November 2010.
I had to laugh about it. I was even saying to my friends, “I am done in boxing, mate. That was embarrassing, I am never doing another fight again. F**k that. And as if anyone is ever going to work with me anyway. My credibility is shot.”
I was okay with it. I still had the online poker. Matchroom were still making a lot of money. Then I get a phone call from Tony Simms.
“Ed, would you be interested in signing Darren Barker?”
This was the week after Haye-Harrison.
“Tony, this is not for me this f**king boxing,” I said to him. “Did you not see Audley Harrison’s performance last week?”
“Yes. I also saw the crowd.”
So, I start mulling it over. I can’t help it. Darren had sold nearly 1,000 tickets when we’d promoted him on the undercard of Harrison-Michael Sprott seven months before. I think about it some more. But there’s voices in my head. ‘Nah, don’t do it, Ed.’
Two weeks after that, on the Saturday, we have another Prizefighter and I get another phone call.
It’s Kell Brook’s dad.
He says, “Can we go to the show tonight?”
I knew Kell was a quality fighter, I knew he’d be good for the crowd, so I invited them along. Turns out they’d just come to see me.
He sat down next to me. “Would you be interested in signing Kell?”
I explained I was just doing these Prizefighter shows now. “They’re nice and easy,” I said, “they don’t give me any aggravation or any headaches.”
But we had a good chat and we arranged a meeting.
Then the following week, I get another phone call.
Rob McCracken had got in touch and he wanted to talk about Carl Froch, who had just left Mick Hennessy.
“Would you be interested in Carl Froch?”
Within a month of Audley Harrison losing to David Haye, I’ve been approached by Barker, Brook and Froch. I was a bit confused by it all. One of them said, “Well, if you can sell Audley Harrison, imagine what you can do with me.”
So, these three guys, on the strength of what I’d done with Audley, wanted to sign with me. I was young, I was fresh. They hadn’t really seen it before. They were used to this ‘old guard’. But of course, they key thing was that I had dates on Sky Sports. If I didn’t have those dates on Sky Sports, I doubt they would have contacted me.
I went up to Nottingham to see Froch.
I said to him, “Look, I don’t really know what I’m doing. We’ve got a company who know what they’re doing but I just talk.”
And that’s what he wanted. That’s what they all wanted. They wanted me to talk and talk and talk. They wanted me to promote them.
So I sign Barker, I sign Brook and I sign Froch. Then everyone was like, ‘Wow. Matchroom have just signed these three guys.’
I did Froch in the World Boxing Super Series with Glen Johnson. Then he had the fight with Andre Ward.
With Kell, I put him in with Lovemore N’dou at the Hillsborough Leisure Centre. It holds 1,100 people. It’s at this bottom of his road. People were telling me we wouldn’t sell it out.
“Of course we’ll f**king sell it out. He lives 100 yards away.”
We sold it out. The atmosphere is still one of my favourite nights. They were hanging off the rafters in there. It was good, he won on points, we had a great response.
It was after that I decided to make the Matthew Hatton fight.
By now, my dad is starting to have a little bit more enthusiasm. Not the kind of enthusiasm that he wants to get involved, it was more like, ‘Go on, son.’ He knew I’d be driving other promoters crazy. Because he’d competed against them in the past, and he knew that I’d be giving them nightmares.
So he said about Brook and Hatton, “Go and give them 100 grand each.”
“Dad, that’s a f**king lot of money.”
“Yeah, but you’ll get it done. Ed, do it.”
So I got it done. One-hundred grand each. They’d have probably taken 60. I think we called it, ‘War Of The Roses.’
Again, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was sitting there giving it all the spiel. Telling everyone what a huge fight it was. We sold 8,000 tickets in the Sheffield Arena and the viewing figures on Sky Sports went mad. There was 300,000 people watching that fight at home.
The atmosphere was unbelievable, and Sky Sports can’t believe it. To me, because I was new to promoting but had grown up with all the big fights, it was all normal.
It was then I said to Sky, “the only way you can do this, is to give me all your dates.”
They said they couldn’t. They had deals with other promoters as well.
“But we all hate each other,” I said. “No one is working with each other. We’re all trying to f**k each other – but with the same broadcaster. How does that work?”
Some of the other promoters were slagging me off. They were playing back clips of me before the Audley Harrison fight, me bigging Audley up, saying all the silly things I said. But I loved it.
They were saying, “Eddie Hearn, what does he know?” They were right, but I was doing something right. And by talking about me, they were making me more successful.
Behind the scenes, I was beavering away with Sky. They kept giving me a flat ‘no’. It got my back up. But I knew the only way we could crack it, to really make it all work the way I wanted it to work, was if they gave me all the dates.
My dad was telling me Sky wouldn’t do it. They were old school, they wouldn’t agree to it.
So I decided we were going to do Froch-Lucian Bute in Nottingham.
The ratings were off the scale. And with Froch winning, it was unbe-f**king-lievable.
Straight after that I said to Sky, “Do you believe me now?”
I think that was when they realised. Frank Warren had already started BoxNation. The timing was perfect. We got the deal with Sky.
I remember the reaction from the boxing fans when we got it: “That’s f**king terrible for the sport.”
The support I got when I started was incredible. All of a sudden, the fans turned. And Sky were really nervous about that.
But we signed the exclusive deal with Sky which has been renewed twice since. Barney Francis said in his closing speech, when he left his position at Sky Sports, that the best thing he’d done was to give Matchroom the exclusive deal because the change in boxing had been a revelation.
It’s been unbelievably successful. We’re now in America, in Italy, we’ve gone from strength to strength.
And of course, now we’re incredibly successful, I’m public enemy number one.
THIS IS THE SECOND OF A FOUR-PART SERIES