Matchroom Boxing head Eddie Hearn is playing the long game in the middle east.
Fresh off staging the anticipated heavyweight rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia where Joshua regained his belts back, Hearn has his eyes on returning to the market with two major shows in 2020.
One of the chips he has in front of him is the recently signed Mikey Garcia, who inked a one-fight deal, with an option to extend, this week with Matchroom. The other is soon-to-be free agent Manny Pacquiao, who has two fights left on his deal with PBC.
If Hearn can have it his way, he’ll deliver a Pacquiao and Garcia fight to Saudi Arabia the second he gets the opportunity.
“They want that [Pacquiao and Garcia] fight,” said Hearn. “They want the biggest of the biggest fights in Saudi Arabia. They have loads of money and are not going anywhere. If you get [a mega fight], they have the money for it. You know, if I’m going to do two shows in Saudi, they are going to be f---ing monsters … I’m getting approaches from everybody in the middle east to do fights, but right now, Saudi Arabia is the one who put the money up and the trust in us.”
Hearn, equipped with a billion dollar budget from DAZN, has the means to open up the checkbook, but as Jermall Charlo proved earlier this week by leaving a sizable one-fight offer to fight Demetrius Andrade on DAZN on the table, not all parties are always willing to openly play ball.
Hearn, who also has his sights for staging a show in China in 2020, said he caught a lot of flak for taking the fight to a country with a history of human rights issues because he was the first one in a long line of promoters to actually pull off the deal.
“We have to come back from the criticism,” said Hearn. “I say, ‘who are you to tell a fighter as dangerous as this sport where they can and can’t go to make money?’ This is prizefighting. Let the fighters make their money. Saudi Arabia has loads of problems. America has loads of problems. Saudi probably has more, but what they’re doing is trying to make a change. The people we are dealing with have a genuine interest in that, and growing the sport from the grassroots.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com and currently does TV commentary for combat sports programming that airs on Fox Sports and hosts his own radio show in Los Angeles. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at [email protected].