Last year at this juncture we noted that future historians may look back on 2016 as the year in which pro boxing returned to its roots and acquired a distinct British patina. Eddie Hearn was in the forefront of the British wave and for his efforts was named the TSS 2016 Promoter of the Year.
In 2017, Hearn (pictured with Katie Taylor) raised the bar once again. Of last year’s award winners, he is the only repeater.
The head of the boxing division of Matchroom Sport, the firm founded by his father, Hearn was the architect of two massive shows featuring Anthony Joshua. On April 29, Joshua’s bout with Wladimir Klitschko drew 90,000 to Wembley Stadium, the biggest crowd for a heavyweight fight in 90 years. It redounded well to Hearn that Joshua and Klitschko put on a fight for the ages.
The bout didn’t break the attendance record for the weight class set by Dempsey-Tunney II at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 1927 — Wembley was too small – but Anthony Joshua’s second fight of 2017, against Carlos Takam at Principality Stadium, a domed stadium in Cardiff, Wales, was a record breaker for an indoor boxing event. The attendance, 78,000, shattered the mark of 63,315 set in 1978 when Muhammad Ali fought Leon Spinks at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
Joshua’s original opponent was Kubrat Pulev. But Hearn wasn’t left grasping for straws when Pulev was forced to pull out with the fight less than two weeks away. He had prepared for that possibility, keeping Takam on standby, and the transition was seamless.
There are other heavyweights in the Matchroom stable, notably the very popular Tony Bellew who relinquished his cruiserweight title to compete as a heavyweight, and Dillian Whyte who is currently ranked #1 by the WBC. In the lower weight classes, Matchroom promotes such notables as IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby, junior welterweight Terry Flanagan, super middleweights Callum Smith and Chris Eubank Jr., featherweights Scott Quigg and Josh Warrington, lightweight Luke Campbell, and rising light heavyweight contender Anthony Yarde. In the aggregate, these 10 fighters are 250-8-3. Flanagan, Smith, Warrington, and Yarde are undefeated, as is one of Hearn’s newer signees, Katie Taylor (8-0).
From the Irish seacoast town of Leeds, Taylor is the most decorated athlete in Ireland. Hearn navigated her into a world title (WBA lightweight) in her seventh pro bout and has big plans for her in 2018.
In September, Hearn made his first foray into the U.S. market, inking former middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs. In his first assignment for Hearn, Jacobs outclassed previously undefeated Luis Arias on a show at Long Island’s refurbished Nassau Coliseum. In December, another Matchroom fighter, Stephen Smith, appeared on a big show in Las Vegas. Smith’s match with victorious Francisco Vargas aired in the U.K. on SkyTV, Matchroom’s longtime TV partner.
Hearn was listed as the co-promoter for both the Long Island and Las Vegas shows, signifying his willingness to work with rival promoters. And we will be seeing a lot more of him on this side of the pond. As first reported on this site by Thomas Hauser, Hearn will open a New York office in 2018 staffed by a dozen employees.
There are currently five father-son combinations in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The list includes bare knuckle boxers Barney Aaron and Dutch Sam and their sons Young Barney Aaron and Young Dutch Sam. The others are trainer Lou Duva and his son, promoter Dan Duva, publicists Murray and Bob Goodman, and ring announcers Jimmy Lennon Sr. and Jimmy Lennon Jr. Someday Eddie Hearn will get the call and that will make six. His father Barry Hearn, inducted into the IBHOF with the class of 2014, promoted such standouts as Lennox Lewis, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, and Naseem Hamed.
Before that day comes, Eddie Hearn has unfinished business. If all goes according to plan, 2018 will be the year that Anthony Joshua unifies the heavyweight title. WBO titlist Joseph Parker comes first (an official announcement is expected within the next few days). Then a much bigger fight will find Joshua locking horns with his WBC counterpart Deontay Wilder in a bout expected to land in the United States, most likely in Las Vegas but don’t rule out Madison Square Garden or a domed football stadium in a city with an ample supply of hotel rooms (Atlanta perhaps?).
In a sport like boxing where Murphy’s Law often rears its head, well-laid plans often unravel. But even if Joshua vs. Wilder fails to materialize, it will be hard to stop Eddie Hearn from scoring a “three-peat” in 2018.
Up next the final installment: The TSS Fighter of the Year
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