By Keith Idec
Barry Hearn says it him, not his son, that believes they should wait “two years” to make the heavyweight title fight boxing fans want most.
The elder Hearn revealed during an interview with IFL TV that he advised Eddie Hearn and Anthony Joshua to continue building his showdown with Deontay Wilder into a bigger, more profitable fight. Barry Hearn also emphasized that while he is the founder and chairman of Matchroom Sport, his son, the company’s group managing director, has the final say on boxing decisions.
“Eddie and Anthony Joshua would fight Deontay Wilder on September 22nd,” Barry Hearn told IFL TV. “I, personally, my advice was let’s leave it [for] two years. Because as the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight got built – you know, in commercial terms AJ and Deontay Wilder today is a $70 million fight, maybe $80 [million]. In two years’ time, it might be $250, $300 million.”
The risk in waiting two years obviously is that either Wilder or Joshua could lose to another opponent and their highly anticipated fight would be completely devalued.
“That’s where your judgment comes in,” Barry Hearn explained, “where you say, ‘Do I see anyone out there to beat either of them?’ No. Could it happen? Yes. ‘OK, that was a bad call.’ But, you know, life’s about making calls. It’s not about sitting still, not taking chances. So I think Shelly Finkel wanted to cash in on Deontay Wilder straight away. That’s my honest feeling. He wanted the fight straight away. That’s crazy. This is crazy, and Shelly knows better than that. Unless he didn’t fancy winning the fight and thought, ‘We better get some money out of it.’ That’s a possibility. We don’t have that concern with AJ.”
Finkel, Wilder’s co-manager, and Barry Hearn have known one another for many years. They met in person to discuss putting together a Joshua-Wilder bout before Joshua instead decided to make a mandatory defense of his WBA title against Alexander Povetkin.
The 28-year-old Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs), the IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion, and Russia’s Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) will square off September 22 at Wembley Stadium in London. The 32-year-old Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is headed toward an optional defense of his WBC title against another Brit, former champ Tyson Fury (26-0, 19 KOs), probably November 17 at an undetermined Las Vegas venue.
Eddie Hearn has said he is open to making Joshua-Wilder on April 13 at Wembley Stadium if Joshua and Wilder win their upcoming bouts. That could require another face-to-face meeting between Barry Hearn and Finkel.
“I wouldn’t have a conversation [with Finkel] unless Eddie told me to, because he’s in charge,” Barry Hearn said. “I’m happy to be there if necessary, and I’m sure post-Fury-Wilder, if it happens, it will be a good time to talk again. But when you plan a business that’s got a 10-year life span, you don’t rush it. I said to AJ, and he asked me my honest opinion, and I said, ‘If you told me you were gonna retire in six months’ time, I’d tell you to fight Deontay Wilder now. If you tell me you’re in for the long run, I’d say that fight can only get bigger. And also, you don’t take chances, you don’t go to the other bloke’s backyard when you don’t need to. The money is insignificantly different.’ ”
Barry Hearn conceded that while his preference is to wait two more years to make Joshua-Wilder, it could transpire sooner. He knows, though, that Joshua could continue making eight figures for fighting other opponents, a luxury Wilder doesn’t have other than the Fury fight.
“Two years would be the maximum,” Barry Hearn said. “For me, the most likely thing would be the fall of 2019. I think by then – I mean, Deontay Wilder’s done a very good job of making himself famous on the back of all this AJ and Fury and all that. And that’s good news for everybody, because no one knew Deontay Wilder in America. More people know him now. And AJ’s unknown in America, largely, and in a year’s time more people will know him. And that fight is an automatic one to be built, and then the money is the difference between 300 and 400,000 buys in America and one-and-a-half million buys. It’s a colossal difference.
“The UK market is already mature and we do what we do. And there’s not a massive upside because AJ’s so big. You can’t do more than sell out Wembley. You can’t do more than one-and-a-quarter, one-and-a-half million pay-per-view buys. So where’s your upside? The upside is internationally, as more people know Anthony, we’re doing an outstanding job on his international television and the U.S. pay-per-view. The DAZN operation is also gonna be a big plus because the marketing they can bring behind AJ in America will be colossal. So I’m very happy. Worst-case scenario, if AJ’s unbeaten for 10 years and doesn’t fight Deontay Wilder, I’ll take that.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.