At the end of the day, Eddie Hearn’s biggest concern is the bottom line for his fighters.
Presumably, that is also why the head of Matchroom Boxing has no qualms staging fights in places where boxing fans have limited access to, like the Middle East. In 2019, Hearn infamously decided to deliver the heavyweight title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz in the Saudi Arabian city of Diriyah, which sits right outside the capital, Riyadh.
Hearn was heavily criticized at the time for his decision because it meant that Joshua, a superstar in his native England, would not be fighting before a packed soccer stadium and thus doing a disservice to his fanbase. Moreover, Hearn was equally condemned by many, like Amnesty International, on moral grounds, because Saudi Arabia has an appalling human rights record, and staging a fight there was, in effect, an act of whitewashing.
Those are legitimate points, Hearn said, but they are secondary concerns compared to the financial ones that he must weigh.
Now there is talk that Hearn is nearing a decision to take another fight there, the forthcoming heavyweight rematch between his charge Joshua and WBO, WBA, and IBF titlist Oleksandr Usyk. Multiple reports suggest the rematch will land in Saudi Arabia on July 23.
“I always have to take the criticism when we go somewhere like the Middle East,” Hearn said on The MMA Hour. “You’re taking the fight, people will say, away from the fans.
“This is prizefighting. This is the most dangerous brutal sport you could ever imagine. If I can generate three, four times the payday for a fighter than I could here: one, I would have no choice, I would have no say. They would be taking it. Some different to others. Katie [Taylor], particularly, but still.”
Hearn said that if a place like Saudi Arabia put up a financial offer that greatly exceeded other options, it was his duty, as a promoter, to suggest that option to his fighters. Few, with the exception of perhaps women’s undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor, would be resistant to the idea, Hearn said.
“If we were in a situation where there were three or four times more money on the table for Katie Taylor to take that fight [to the Middle East], I would be saying to her,’ The decision is yours, but you gotta take this opportunity.’
“And that goes back to AJ-Ruiz [the rematch], that goes back to particularly AJ and Usyk, which is a co-promotion, where it is a split in revenue. Do you think when I say to Oleksandr Usyk you can make x to fight in London, or 4x to fight [elsewhere], what do you think he’s gonna say? It’s prizefighting.”
Given the callous and dangerous nature of boxing, Hearn believes his top obligation as a promoter is to fetch the highest price for his clients.
“I agree with all your points, in terms of that night out, that moment,” Hearn said. “But if there is a life changing offer that comes in for this fight, it would be mad not to consider it. And sometimes people don’t understand that. All I can ever be is honest that I can be with a fight fan and say that you have to understand this isn’t a game of tennis, this isn’t 18 holes around the golf course. This is a fight that can change you forever, physically and mentally. Please let these fighters get what they deserve.”
“There’s nothing more rewarding as a promoter when I see someone step away from the sport with all his spoils – with their legacy and with their belts – but financially secure to never have to worry again for them and their children,” Hearn added.