Eddie Hearn Talks PPV & Britain’s Emergence as the Capital of World Boxing

Eddie Hearn sits atop both British & world boxing as the sport experiences a commercial resurgence in the United Kingdom whilst floundering in a post-Mayweather gloom on the other side of the Atlantic. I meet him at a hospitality suite in the “outstanding entertainment centre purpose built for music, comedy, sport and family events” that is Birmingham’s 15,800 capacity Barclaycard Arena. I am Hearn’s 12th & final interview of the day.

Much like his multi-sport promoting father Barry there is an air of magnetism to the younger Hearn’s presence. There is also an enthusiasm for his passion of boxing that permeates his every word.

“From the age of about 8 – when my dad became involved in boxing with Bruno vs. Bugner – I became obsessed with the sport. I’d spend 5 days a week down at the gym just watching sparring; reading the boxing annual – there was a time back then when I could recite the record of any professional boxer in the United Kingdom” reminisces the always exquisitely dressed Eddie of a youth set against a backdrop of his father’s successes in snooker, darts & boxing.

Our meeting takes place at the press conference for super flyweight Khalid Yafai’s homecoming bout with Suguru Muranaka having become Birmingham’s first born & bred major sanctioning body world champion after a flawless display against Luis Concepcion in December. That bout marked the first time in the history of the WBA’s super flyweight division that a world title bout was hosted in Britain – May 13 will mark the second. Such is the world of the disparagingly nicknamed ‘Fast Eddie’ – a promoter who has single-handily steered British boxing from the edge of irrelevance where it stood in late 2011 to become the toast of world boxing within a mere 5 years.Matchroom Boxing

Matt Hamilton (MH): Could the Haye-Bellew card & main event have gone any better for you?

Eddie Hearn (EH): No. We’re in a position where pay per view cards at the moment couldn’t be going any better you know in terms of the value they are giving & the numbers. When you look at Brook-Golovkin which was just thrilling – no complaints.

MH: If I want to be hyper critical – just to be constructive – my 73 year old dad nearly fell asleep during Haskins vs Hall (on the Brook-Golovkin undercard)…

EH: The problem you have is when you do a big main event & you’ve got to remember these guys own the show you know the model so when you’re sitting down with someone like David Haye & you’re saying the undercard budget should be X and he’s saying, “what? we’re not spending that!” So we’ve gotta find the balance there. For Haye-Bellew the undercard was OK, it didn’t set fire but it was solid. The problem was if the main event was a one or two round blow out we wouldn’t have heard the end of it, you know what I mean? 

On the flip side you look at something like the Joshua cards where we spent a fortune on the undercard & Anthony gets that while he’s in those kind of fights – you know Molina & Breazeale. But by the time the main event comes around you’re fulfilled. After the Chisora-Whyte fight you have got your value for money.SkySports Box Office

MH: You couldn’t possibility have predicted it – and Buglioni vs Burton for that matter – to have gone that well..

EH: Yes that was a stunning card. Callum Smith vs Blackledge; Katie Taylor; Ortiz I mean it was an incredible card. And no I couldn’t have predicted that or Haye-Bellew – I believed that it was going to be a good fight & I honestly believed that Tony had a chance in the fight if he could take him deep. What I wasn’t sure of was if Tony could take his power – that was my biggest concern. And once he did I was quite comfortable. It was then just a case of how he was going to beat him. So in that respect after the fight everything was brilliant – everyone was happy – incredible value for money & that’s my biggest concern with the pay per view because you know it only takes one poor pay per view for everyone to say ‘ah, I’m done with pay per view boxing’. As it happens now everyone’s ready to go again & actually more platforms than ever are trying to have a go. But we have to stand out as a premium product. 

MH: Surely if you have 5 or 7 or 12 good pay per views and then one poor one – surely, shit is going to happen at some point. 

EH: It is but we haven’t had that for quite a while I’m not saying Brook-Golovkin was like you know… it was thrilling – in the last however many pay per views I’ve done no one has turned around & said that was shit so for me that is incredibly rewarding. It’s high risk pay per view because you’ve got to remember Sky as well as us are asking the customer to put their hand in their pocket. So its got to deliver. And at the moment they are delivering. And the numbers are going like that [points upward]. And other platforms are all trying to have a go. So you’re gonna get flooded with pay per view boxing if you aren’t already. But we live in a world, a society, where people want premium products. You almost feel like people are sitting at home on a Saturday night Fight Night [SkySport’s non-PPV boxing staple] going ‘O, boxing on tonight – is it PPV? No? Oh {looks disappointed}’. Do you know what I mean? It can’t be all that then. 

MH: But as you once put it its the price of a pizza… 

EH: It is you know its a Starbucks for you & your mates you know what I mean? I likened it in my interview with Boxing News which when I read back I did cringe – I went to the airport the other day – Stansted – and you go through security & you’ve got this premium lane right – you look in that lane and its absolutely rammed & I’m thinking that is going to take me an hour. And I look at the premium lane & there isn’t one person in the queue other than the odd guy going through. And I haven’t got a premium pass..

MH: Fuck off… You haven’t got a premium pass?

EH: Not on me no. So I go up to them & say ‘How do I get in here?’ And they say, ‘You pay £5’. I couldn’t have got that £5 out of my pocket any quicker. Now if it was £20 I don’t think I would have done it but I still would have thought about it. People want premium. And I think broadcasters are finding that too – that people are willing to pay for premium products. The important thing for us is to make sure it is a premium product. And the danger is when you let the quality of the product slide & that’s something we mustn’t do. And thankfully with Haye-Bellew with Joshua-Klitschko we’re not doing that because they’re definitely fights people aren’t gonna say ‘ah, you can’t put that on pay per view’.

MH: A criticism that is sometimes levelled at you – as is inevitable being in your position I guess – is from solid boxing fans who claim to find it impossible to get tickets for major fights – Wembley level events – without being asked to pay frankly exorbitant prices on the secondary market. How do you respond to that?

EH: The StubHub debate has gone on for ages but what should be remembered is we sold 90,000 tickets – many of them on StubHub – primary market tickets to the public – now those people do exist. So sure if someone can’t attend the fight because they have a wedding or a funeral to attend then StubHub have the facility for the public to resell their tickets. What I can promise is we never have & never will sell tickets for more than the face value. We have had offers from other (non-StubHub) ticket companies as folllows… ‘you give us the tickets, we sell them straight to the public for an inflated price & we cut you in on the difference’. And we’ve declined every single time – and always will. Because that is morally repugnant – we don’t do business like that. We try to make the tickets as affordable as we can. A ringside seat for Joshua vs. Klitschko is £2,000 & those sold out fast – now I know that if I set that at a face value of £5,000 they’d have sold out just as quickly.

Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko

Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko

MH: So why didn’t you?

EH: [Laughs] Because where do you stop? I mean you have to think about what the ticket is actually worth.. 

MH: Interest in Haye vs Bellew – as measured by global Google search interest – topped interest in Thurman vs Garcia by a factor of 7 to 1. Now considering that was on free to air television in the United States – is it pleasing to you when people view Britain as the centre of world boxing?

EH: It’s difficult to get a gauge of what people from the outside are making of what we’re doing here in the UK. Now I’m not saying we’re solely responsible for the state of British boxing but I think we can take some of the credit.

End of Part 1