It’s almost as if the Essex-born boxing promoter is more interesting and compelling than the fighters he promotes.
“The razzmatazz is important,” Hearn tells CNN Sport’s Don Riddell ahead of this weekend’s super-middleweight title unification fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Canelo Álvarez. “We want people talking.”
In his DNA
In 1982 his father Barry Hearn founded the promotions company Matchroom Sport group and was a key player in turning snooker into one of the most followed sports in Britain, eventually making his foray into boxing, darts and golf.
This spring Hearn was appointed group chairman when his father stepped down after almost 40 years and took up the position of president in an advisory capacity. Alongside his new role Hearn leads Matchroom Boxing, including its US division and the PGA EuroPro Tour.
In spite of the pandemic, the group had its most successful year ever in 2020, hitting almost £30 million ($41.7 million) of net profit. Hearn expects profits to fluctuate over the next year, but as he said in the same interview, to achieve even £20 million ($27.8 million) net profit is quite unusual for a family business.
Hearn says it’s his father’s ambition and vigor that he’s inherited. “He always made me realize that you don’t get anything for free, you’ve got to work for everything you get.”
Not without controversy
For Hearn, sharpening his salesmanship has always been the secret to his success. “I’m not a genius. I didn’t come out of college with straight A’s, but I knew how to sell.”
The five-year contract marks a new era for Matchroom. Due to start on July 1, it will end an almost decade-long exclusive broadcast relationship with Sky Sports in the UK and will bring many of the group’s elite British and Irish athletes to DAZN, including Callum Smith and Katie Taylor.
However, Hearn’s career hasn’t been without controversy.
“You have to be making noise”
“We want them [fans] to buy into the narrative of these great fights. If that means me putting myself up there on a pedestal and taking a few knocks on the way, then so be it.”
“Sometimes it’s controversial, sometimes people agree with you, sometimes they don’t agree with you, but I love what I do,” Hearn tells CNN Sport.
Meanwhile Hearn is looking ahead to what he calls “the biggest fight in boxing today,” a reference to the unified world heavyweight championship bout between Joshua and fellow British boxer Tyson Fury.
Hearn confirmed that the two-fight deal will take place in the Middle East, with the first taking place in August and the second one in December.
“It’s a fight that the whole world will stop to watch, and it’s the sporting event of the year for me.”
Behind his bombastic persona, Hearn says that he’s driven by his unrelenting love for boxing.
“If you can sell and you have a great product, you’re indestructible. And that’s how I feel right now with the great shows we’re putting on all around the world.
“If you don’t have a passion for what you do, you can’t be relentless,” he adds.
If 2021 promises much for Hearn, the 41-year-old promoter is savvy enough to strike a note of caution.
“Boxing is the greatest sport in the world, but it’s also the worst business in the world … the highs are high and the lows are low. There’s never a dull moment.”
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