Promoter Eddie Hearn says the people who advised his former client, Lawrence Okolie, to defect to a rival outfit are the same ones who caused Joshua Buatsi to decamp from Hearn’s promotional purview.
Hearn, the head of Matchroom, did not name the “group of people” in question but insisted that they were responsible for the recent talent drain on his roster. Both Okolie, a cruiserweight titlist, and Buatsi, a light heavyweight contender, subsequently signed with Boxxer, the promotional company that acts as the key content provider for Sky, the legacy broadcaster in the United Kingdom. The move also saw both fighters leave their longtime management company, 258 MGT, a fighter-advisory company founded by former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
“Some people who aren’t the brightest and don’t know too much about the actual industry of the sport advise these fighters and they’ve got in the ear—It’s the same group of people, in fact, that got in the ear of Lawrence Okolie,” Hearn told FightHubTV.
Buatsi, who announced his new deal with Sky earlier this month, had been promoted by Matchroom since he came out of the 2016 Olympics. Buatsi cited his desire to be “seen” on national television, and not buried on an app like DAZN, the streaming platform to which Hearn’s Matchroom is tied, as the chief reason why he sought to cut ties with his longtime backer. Hearn was formerly the exclusive boxing content provider to Sky before he entered into a multi-year deal with DAZN in 2021.
Hearn, who has criticized Buatsi for turning down what would have been a career high payday against light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol, said the manner in which Buatsi and Okolie departed bear certain “similarities.”
“You see the similarities,” Hearn said. “Great relationships with Lawrence Okolie and great relationships with Joshua Buastsi and all of a sudden, you’re pumped to say things on camera that don’t really make sense. And also a bit sad to hear him (Buatsi) talk like that.
“We’ve had Joshua Buastsi since his debut. He’s had the full attention of Matchroom, Anthony Joshua, and Sky Sports for his entire career. And he returns back to Sky Sports like it’s the biggest moment of his career. He’s been boxing his whole career on Sky Sports other than two fights. We kind of—it’s frustrating. We offered him 1.25 million pounds to fight Dmitry Bivol. He boxed [Ricards] Bolotniks. He boxed Craig Richards, he got to number one in the world and it’s like, it’s time. He’s a good fighter. He didn’t want the fight. He said in the interview they wanted to extend my contract. Well, obviously, your contract is up and one you had a rematch clause that Dmitry Bivol would insist on and I’m not giving you 1.25 million, building you your whole career and [then letting you go].
“It’s just people filling his head with stuff.”
“He’s a good fighter,” Hearn said of Buatsi. “I just don’t feel like he’s confident enough or ready enough to take on those big fights. He’s gonna box on a small show in May, I believe, against a tick-over. We’ll see. Honestly, I wish him the best of luck. Just disappointing really. I just don’t feel like it’s him speaking. It’s very strange.”
Okolie (18-0, 14 KOs) is set to defend his WBO cruiserweight title this weekend against David Light in Manchester on a Boxxer/Sky Sports card.
Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs) is scheduled to headline a Boxxer/Sky Sports show in Birmingham on May 6.
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