Eddie Hearn accepts partial responsibility for the purse surge in boxing over the past two years.
The British promoter also anticipates that trend will end while operating in a global economy damaged badly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA and DAZN, one of Matchroom’s broadcast partners, reportedly committed an approximate $10 million in purses to Mikey Garcia ($7 million) and Jessie Vargas ($3 million) for the last pre-pandemic main event DAZN streamed February 29 from Frisco, Texas.
Hearn defended driving up purses during a recent appearance on Chris Mannix’s Sports Illustrated boxing podcast because it was a necessary sacrifice for DAZN as the fledgling streaming service aggressively attempted to make an immediate impact in boxing, particularly in the United States. That approach enabled DAZN to sign such established boxers as Canelo Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, Gennadiy Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade, Garcia and Vargas to contracts.
“Well, I know that Bob [Arum] has made it quite clear publicly that that is his intention, really, is to bring purses down,” Hearn said. “And I have to say, Chris, purses have got – I mean, you know the business – they’ve got completely out of control. And listen, part of it’s my fault and DAZN’s fault. They’ve had to come in, they’ve had to make some noise. Bob blamed me [recently]. The other day I was on the phone to him, and he said, ‘Well, it’s all your fault anyway. And before you, it was Al [Haymon].’ And, you know.
“But it’s like, we don’t wanna stop paying fighters great money. They deserve it. But we just need to make sure it’s delivering value, not value for us, but value for our customers. And our customers are our broadcasters. So, you know, we have been in a stage lately where when you’re signing a fighter, if I’m signing a fighter to Matchroom Boxing USA or DAZN, you lure them in, Chris, don’t you, with that first easy fight, you know? ‘Oh, look at that money. Well, I’ve only gotta fight a top-15 guy? Great.’ Now, when you get to a stage where it’s opponents to be agreed, we’ve just got to be in a situation where, you know, we’re not unfair. But it’s not even gonna come down to Matchroom, really. It’s gonna come down to the broadcasters.”
Moving forward, Hearn expects DAZN and other outlets to demand more competitive fights from promoters when required to pay premium prices for content. It’ll be harder, Hearn believes, for higher-profile fighters to secure substantial paydays if they’re unwilling to fight top opponents.
“If I was the broadcasters,” Hearn explained, “in this marketplace, in this environment, in this economy, I would be saying, ‘I want great content. What have you got?’ And the supplier, the rights-holder, will go back and say, ‘The problem is I haven’t got a gate. And, you know, my hands are tied because I’ve only got this budget for the show and I can’t afford a great opponent because, you know.’ And that’s when you’ve got to make it happen somehow. But I’m almost on the side of the broadcaster here, Chris, rather than the promoter, even though I’m a promoter, because I think this is the time. I think, and listen, it might be a time where we all, collectively, try and, you know, shake up the world of boxing and get it right. And maybe there’s some casualties along the way. You know, I’m not talking about fighters. I’m talking about maybe promoters. But I think if we don’t get the model right now – I think the best way to describe it is this is our greatest-ever chance to get boxing right.
“And we have to take this opportunity and we have to do it right. And that could be in terms of fights, that could be in terms of purses, that could be in terms of, you know, contracts, broadcasters, schedules, you know, so many different things. But the key to a great product in fight sports is the fight. And we just cannot afford anymore just to do this guy against this guy down here. You know? And I’ve done it. I’ve done it loads of times on DAZN, because that’s how you bring a fighter into your stable. So, we either have to accept that we may lose fighters, or we might not sign anymore new fighters. But we have to be fair. But we have to say, ‘You’ve got to give value and you’ve got to fight. And this environment now, this economy says you need to be in a real fight. And you’ll get great money for it. But you’ve got to have a real fight.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.