Eddie Hearn does not believe there was anything misleading about Anthony Joshua’s recent career pledge to DAZN, even though the platform will not be streaming his upcoming and arguably most important fight to date.
Sky, the British broadcaster, reportedly retained rights to the Aug. 20 heavyweight title unification rematch between Anthony Joshua and WBO, WBA, IBO and IBF champion Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, beating out competitor DAZN.
The report came as a surprise to some observers as it appeared that DAZN was a shoo-in to deliver the fight after Joshua announced an exclusive "long-term global partnership" with the subscription-based app nearly a month ago. Joshua previously had an exclusive long-term deal with Sky, but that deal closed after the first match with Usyk.
In a recent interview, Hearn, the head of Matchroom Boxing, which promotes Joshua and has an extensive content deal with DAZN, pushed back against the notion that there was any incongruity between DAZN's new deal with Joshua and Sky winning the broadcast rights for Joshua's next fight. Hearn also dismissed any suggestion that he was involved in negotiations for the heavyweight rematch to be delivered to Sky; Hearn was an exclusive supplier of boxing content in the UK for Sky for many years before he linked up with DAZN last year.
Hearn stated that Joshua’s deal with DAZN never included the Usyk rematch, which, the promoter said, was always meant to go to the highest bidder.
“It was always the case that the rights weren’t available for the Saudi Arabia fight,” Hearn told IFL TV. “It was always going open market. What Joshua has done is pledged his long-term future in the sport to DAZN. But this fight was always outside of that agreement. That deal (between Joshua and DAZN) was announced because it was signed, but the Saudi deal was never done with DAZN. They were always going to open market. It was not a process we were ever involved with.”
Saudi Arabia turned in an enormous site fee – reportedly to the tune of £88 million to win the rights to Usyk-Joshua II. Hearn was previously looking to stage the fight at the site of the first fight in September, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.
Hearn said he had heard that Sky's offer was stratospheric enough to dissuade the other bidders, which reportedly also included the BBC and BT Sport.
“I’ve seen some of the numbers floating around, it’s incredible,” Hearn said of Sky's bid. "$30 million something like that. It shows you the size of the fight. I don’t know the official announcement, or who gets what rights globally. We always knew that when we did this deal that it was a complete payment for the site fee and all rights. So this was one we weren’t involved with.”
“We had no involvement in the process,” Hearn continued. "We didn’t own the rights to this fight, Saudi did. They went out and ultimately took probably the biggest offer, which was always expected.”
Hearn also gave his assurance that despite the fact that Sky will be broadcasting the fight, Sky will have no say in the matchups for the undercard. Sky has its own cadre of exclusive fighters through its partnership with the promoter Boxxer.
“We’ve got our agreement within the contract for the undercard,” Hearn said. “Obviously it’s a Matchroom show.”