THE 2016 BOXING AWARDS — Over the next several days, we will be handing out our “Best of the Best” awards for 2016. The awards will be accompanied by a video presentation on our sister site, The Boxing Channel.
Recipients were chosen by a committee of TSS writers with project coordinator Miguel Iturrate empowered to make the final call in the event of a deadlock. The first award is for the Promoter of the Year and here all of the panelists were in firm agreement. EDDIE HEARN was the unanimous pick.
Decades from now, boxing historians may look back on 2016 as the year in which the upper level of the sport acquired a distinctly British patina. Thirteen fighters from Great Britain are currently recognized as world champions by one or more of the four major sanctioning bodies. Seven of these title-holders –heavyweight Anthony Joshua, cruiserweight Tony Bellew, light heavyweight Nathan Cleverly, junior welterweight Ricky Burns, featherweight Carl Frampton, bantamweight Lee Haskins, and super flyweight Kal Yafai – acquired the belt they currently own in 2016. Almost all are under contract to Matchroom Sport, the firm that Barry Hearn, Eddie’s father, started in 1982.
The elder Hearn built Matchroom into a multi-faceted sports empire. Barry Hearn made his first fortune promoting snooker and subsequently became the leading impresario in the sport of darts which he elevated from a humble pub game into a sport that draws big TV ratings throughout much of the world. In boxing he promoted such notables as Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, and Naseem Hamed. Barry Hearn was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014.
Nepotism often backfires, but when Barry Hearn turned over the boxing component of his business to his son, it couldn’t have worked out any better. Eddie Hearn, now 37 years old, has built the boxing side of the Matchroom operation into a larger piece of the company pie. Although not usually given to braggadocio, the younger Hearn, who boxed as an amateur, credits himself with making U.K. boxing trendy again.
Matchroom’s first big promotion of 2016 was a domestic clash at Manchester between Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg. Yes, it was a match that appealed to hardcore fans of many nationalities, but who would have thought that a contest between super bantamweights (122 pounds) would sell out in 10 minutes in an arena configured to hold 20,000?
In tandem with their broadcasting partner SkyTV, Matchroom promoted 22 boxing shows overall in 2016, three of which featured heavyweight sensation Anthony Joshua. Matchroom also promoted the Sept. 10 blockbuster in London between Gennady Golovkin and Kell Brook.
Eddie Hearn was the guiding hand behind the richest fight in British boxing history, the 2014 rematch at Wembley Stadium between Carl Froch and George Groves. That bout, contested before 80,000, had gross receipts of $23 million.
Matchroom returns to Wembley Stadium on April 29, 2017 where IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will oppose former WBA/WBO/IBF world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. That event will almost certainly break all existing records, making Eddie Hearn the early favorite to cop this award again next year.
TOMORROW: The 2016 Boxing Personality of the Year
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.