By Terence Dooley
Time is infinite, matter is finite, you are going to run out of one during the course of the other. Boxing stables also have a tipping point: too few fighters leaves you with fewer options; too many fighters is a recipe for dissent as the fighters will all be vying for the finite number of fight dates that any one promoter or TV network can offer.
Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport is aware of this tipping point. He’s collected more signatures than Bernard Hopkins has collected souls in recent years—and he has told me that there are more to come—so how will he keep everyone happy?
Hearn intends to launch a loyalty service that will allow Matchroom to stage off-TV shows whilst granting exposure to their fighters by streaming these events. There are also plans afoot to utilise a loyalty service when prioritising ticket allocations for the big shows.
“There’s five or six fighters that I want to sign, so I’m toying with the idea of signing all of them because we have plans to have non-TV, but streamed, events to bring young fighters through,” said Hearn when speaking to BoxingScene.
“Perhaps it will not always be the bill toppers (on the off-TV shows), because we’re looking to get people out as much as possible (on Sky). We’re also looking into a loyalty scheme that will give members access to the streams for the non-TV shows as well as access to tickets for the big shows.
“It will help fighters. Not just the likes of [Ricky] Boylan and [Sam] Eggington or [Martin Joseph] Ward, but also someone who has been out with an injury and just needs a six rounder. We get people out now without any problems, but we are running out of shows for the amount of fighters we’ve got.”
Shows are works in progress until the first bell rings on the first fight. Hearn’s “Rise Up” show at Manchester’s Phones 4U Arena on Saturday is a prime example, injuries took their toll on potential match-ups and ate away at the line up.
Ironically, though, injuries allow promoters to roll fighters over to their next bill and prevents them from staging the epic all day affairs Don King used to put on. However, Hearn doesn’t want to leave things to chance; he believes that the off-TV streaming venture will keep everybody happy.
“As you say, people get injured, but we don’t want to get a logjam or backed up, we can’t rely on people pulling out through injuries,” he said. “We keep everyone active. I’ve not had one fighter moaning, but we will get to that stage unless we do something like this. People have been asking for this for a while, you’d get access to the shows and streams, but, more importantly, you will get first dibs on the tickets for the big shows, like Froch-Groves 2 for example.
“It allows us to bring the younger fighters through. I don’t just want to sign Olympians, I want to sign [recent Prizefighter: The Welterweights winner] Johnny Coyle. I’ve got [Prizefighter semi-finalist] Eggington on this Saturday because Martin Ward pulled out. It was refreshing to see how quickly Eggington took it, but how good is he? We don’t quite know yet, but he reminds me of a young Carl Froch. Unless you give these fighters a chance, you don’t know how good they can be.”
With up to six new names in the pipeline, I asked Hearn if he fancied cutting to the chase and listing them to save me a bit of work over the coming weeks. He declined, politely.
“There’s one or two big names, but also some of the prospects that people think I wouldn’t sign,” he said. “I want to do that because it shows what’s in my heart a little bit more. People see us sign Luke Campbell and go: ‘F***ing hell, he’s a top fighter with pedigree’, but what if get someone we can nurture and bring through in the right way then, all of a sudden, they break through. There’s a lot of fighters out there like that.
“Eggington will fight anyone. I asked [well-known Birmingham fight figure] Jon Pegg what he’s doing on Saturday and he said: ‘Yeah, we’ll have it—who are we fighting?’ They thought they were the away fighter, they aren't but would have jumped at it anyway. I thought that was refreshing because it shows he’ll fight any welterweight in the country.
“It’s been difficult the last couple of shows, we had a few pullouts, but that’s nothing new—this one would have had 18 fights on it without the injuries. I think boxing’s in a great place at the moment, look at the Coppex Box last week, you had some losses, but that’s what happens when you are matched tough. It puts pressure on other people to make tough fights because people are bored of one sided fights, but the thing with putting on tougher fights is that people will lose.”
Hearn is eyeing up Sergey Khomitsky for Callum Smith. The Liverpudlian returns from injury on Saturday night when he meets Francois Bastient over six-threes; he could take on Khomitsky at some point if Hearn has his way. He said: “If you’re not good enough then you will lose, [Frank] Buglioni is a good example of that [he lost to Khomitsky by sixth-round TKO at London’s Copper Box venue last Saturday night]—he’s a good young fighter but wasn’t good enough.
“Now we’ve got to ask the same of Callum, because you don’t know unless you take a Khomitsky. Callum might not be good enough, but I think he is and the proof is in the pudding. People are realising that you have to take risks, and that’s good for everyone.”
Hearn has recently added James DeGale to Matchroom’s books to sew up the Super middleweight division. The promoter has also picked up a few critics since taking up the reins of Matchroom’s boxing operation. You could say that boxing is built on backlash, but that sentiment applies to pretty much every area in life. Hearn knows that the backlash will come. Surviving it depends on how well you ride it out.
“You understand it yourself, two years ago I was ‘The saviour of boxing’, which I never was, by the way, that’s just how it was made to look, now I’m this bloke who is taking fighters, has a total monopoly, does what he wants and is actually Doctor Evil,” stated Hearn.
“I was sent a Tweet that said: ‘One week they love you. The next week they hate you. Both weeks, you get paid’. I sent that to my old man [Barry Hearn] this morning and he said: ‘That’s the story of my life’, but that’s the game we’re in.
“You can’t worry about a few hundred people on Twitter and the forums. We’re not doing anything differently now to how we were doing it when we got the total support, it’s just the perception of: ‘Oh look, they’ve signed another fighter, they’ve got everyone now!’—that’s all that’s changed.”
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