TOGETHER Matchroom Boxing and Sky Sports did a tremendous job of boosting boxing’s profile in the UK over the last decade. Their divorce, which was confirmed last week when Eddie Hearn announced a new and exclusive five-year deal with DAZN, marks a new era in British boxing.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the up-and-coming Hearn was badgering Sky Sports for exclusivity. He was eager to be the channel’s sole promoter at a time when other promotional outfits were sharing hosting duties with Matchroom. As is often the case with Hearn, he got his own way.
It may now appear that the roles were reversed as Sky Sports tried to persuade the influential and charismatic Hearn to sign a new and exclusive deal with them. The truth is that the split, not quite harmonious but as amicable as splits of this nature can be, simply had to happen. Both parties will be big players in boxing in years to come and the sport can grow healthier as a consequence.
Hearn will surely be successful with DAZN. Success is in his blood, after all. But it won’t happen overnight. He might have trying times as he realises how good he had it at Sky Sports, not only a polished and ferociously hard-working production outfit but arguably the most formidable marketing machine in the business. Though Hearn played a blinder in nurturing both his own standing and the boxing talent he worked with, his job was unquestionably made easier by the platforms from which he could shout about that talent. But if anyone presumes he’s just in this for the money, or doesn’t care what true boxing fans want, then pay close attention to the line-up of talent he has amassed to launch his latest venture. The lead commentator in particular is among the most respected figures in the entire sport.
Like Eddie Hearn will miss Sky Sports they too will miss Eddie Hearn. His silky tongue and thirst for financial gain is not everyone’s cup of tea but no one can deny that, as he proudly exhibited his work to the world, he became a household name who drew attention to the network. But to say their success was solely down to him would be doing the channel a huge disservice. Behind the scenes at Sky Sports there is a group of talented and knowledgeable people who love the sport as much as you and I. The good news is that those people, who for weeks faced an uncertain future as reports were leaked about the Matchroom and DAZN link-up, will continue to work for Sky Sports Boxing, feeling somewhat unshackled now that Hearn has gone. New people, like former Matchroom stalwart John Wischhusen (though not as Sky’s Head of Boxing as has been reported), Boxxer’s Ben Shalom and Evolution Media Capital’s James Elliott will join them as the channel showcases other promotional teams and fighters that would ordinarily have struggled to get exposure. In short, with the fire still very much alive in the belly of Frank Warren and BT Sport and the new Fight Zone App taking shape, British boxing should open up nicely.
Boxing News wishes everyone well as they embark on their new journeys. As ever, we will be watching closely with great interest.
FOR those of you annoyed that Floyd Mayweather is on the front cover this week put yourself in our shoes. Though nobody at BN confused his recent exhibition with the sport of boxing, his ‘comeback’ was by far the biggest story of the week. We’re simply doing our duty by reporting earnestly on it and, with one eye on shifting as many copies as possible, recognising the interest in it. Furthermore, look at the front pages of every single newspaper around the world; they always lead with the biggest story regardless of whether that story is good news or bad. For example, a newspaper reporting on the antics of Donald Trump does not mean the newspaper is supportive of those antics. The same rules apply here.
THE death of former WBC super-welterweight belt-holder Keith Mullings at the age of just 53 was as shocking as his greatest victory. He essentially ended the career of Terry Norris in 1997 after being handpicked to ease Norris into a money-spinning bout with Oscar De La Hoya the following year. We will publish a full tribute to the gutsy fighter in next week’s issue. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.
CONGRATULATIONS to the 11 British boxers and their teams who have qualified for the Olympics. A stunning achievement amid a difficult time for amateur boxing. Watch highlights of the European Qualifiers on BBC 2 on Sunday at 11.30am