On a clear day you can see London from the back garden of Maskells, the Matchroom headquarters in Brentwood, Essex, which was once the Hearn family home. The grounds sweep down a hill towards the M25 motorway, the sound of which is just about audible in the distance. It is usually a spot of calm, but one thing is for certain, there will be no quiet teas on the lawn in the next few weeks.
If someone in the family had possessed a flair for gardening in the household, they could have done incredible things there. That person might object to the garden being converted into a boxing arena and to TV trucks churning up the grass. The Hearn family are more into their business than their flowers, though, and by staging Fight Camp through August, Eddie Hearn is hoping to plant something in the minds of boxing fans that will bloom for a long time to come.
Fight Camp can be seen as a vanity project. Hearn believes it will lose a significant amount of money for the company. But it is a matter which highlights the difference between father and son in the Hearn family.
Eddie might have been born with something of a silver spoon in his mouth, but he has had success by styling himself as a showman, something of a PT Barnum for boxing. Think of something big and he’ll think of something bigger.
Barry, his father, came into sport after working as an accountant. He likes to see the bills are paid and the percentages in place. When Eddie suggested taking Froch-Groves 2 to Wembley Stadium, Hearn Sr scoffed. Knowing Fight Camp has next to no chance of breaking even does not sit well.
“My Dad said ‘wouldn’t have it been easier to just go to York Hall?’” Hearn Jr said. “And I thought, ‘yeah, but it would be sh-t’.
“We can’t just presume that we can come back with anything and the fights fans will automatically engage and be interested – ‘whatever it looks like, whatever the quality is like, we’ll be there’.
“If the current return of boxing has told us anything, that is definitely not the case. Big props to Top Rank for bringing it back, but no one is watching it. No one knows about it and the fights aren’t good enough.
“I didn’t want to come back in a dark studio, I wanted to come back with a vision and a project we could get excited about that.”
Fight Camp will kick off on August 1 headlined by a super-welterweight clash between Sam Eggington and Ted Cheeseman. A week later, Terri Harper puts her WBC lightweight title on the line against former Olympian Natasha Jonas, before, on August 15, Felix Cash defends his Commonwealth middleweight title against former world title challenger Jason Welborn.
The final week, August 22, sees a pay-per-view show in the UK, headlined by Dillian Whyte’s heavyweight clash against Alexander Povetkin. With no paying spectators and an arena constructed from scratch, there is a big black hole in the accounts.
“Doing a fight like that behind closed doors was the hardest part of this experiment and the most costly as well, but I felt it was really important because we can run a Box Office event as week four of Fight Camp,” Hearn said.
“Number one, there’s no gate, number two, the costs of running a show with no gate. The Alexander Povetkin-Dillian Whyte fight, the gate for that would have been a million quid. All of a sudden, you’re a million short. Where’s that going to come from?
“We’ve got a canopy, we’re going to be building changing rooms, hiring hotels, it’s £30,000 for testing at just one event. That’s £120,000 overall just for testing.”
One advantage Hearn has had is that with so few options around for boxers to earn at the moment, he believes he was able to make tougher matches than their managers in many cases would have liked.
“The first rules of Fight Camp as no easy fights,” he said. “So you can either have a tough fight now or wait a bit. It has been quite nice to say to a few managers who can be a pain in the arse ‘if you don’t like this fight, we’ll see you later in the year’.
“We have to be a little tougher as time goes on to keep that, because the only one who gets stick is me. I want to see good fights as you want to see good fights, rather than a prospect against an international journeyman that we don’t know a lot about. You are going to see more competitive fights, but you are going to see younger fighters tested a lot quicker.”
Hearn promises he will not be doing things by half, with light shows and pyrotechnics put on for the boxers, officials, television crew and Matchroom staff in attendance. Hearn Sr will not be allowed ringside, as he is over 70 and recently suffered a heart attack, putting him in a high-risk category for coronavirus. Instead he will get to watch from an upstairs window what his son has spent all that money on.
“We know we are going to be losing a significant amount,” Eddie Hearn said. “But we’ve got no choice because you either sit and wait and come back in November or you give it a crack.
“This is our way of giving it a crack and we think it’s going to be the one that makes the most noise.
“We don’t take the easy option.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.