Whenever the boxing business returns to some sense of normalcy, Eddie Hearn figures fans will benefit from COVID-19 sending the sport into a hiatus.
The British promoter predicted that this lengthy layoff will encourage more boxers to take high-profile fights and accompanying paydays while those opportunities exist.
“There’s always a fallout from this kind of stuff, you know, that changes the landscape of a business or the sport,” Hearn told IFL TV on Monday in an interview posted to its YouTube channel. “And I think for boxing, I think how this will change is you’ll see fighters being moved into bigger fights quicker. I think that people will realize sometimes things aren’t guaranteed, nothing is given, and rather than having a warmup fight or having this one first or this little one, I think people will be looking to have bigger fights.”
Hearn also acknowledged there will be pressure on his company, Matchroom Boxing, and other promoters to enhance the quality of their cards. He knows enticing people to return to large venues in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic won’t be easy, even in the United Kingdom, where boxing is very popular.
“When we come back, we need to make sure that we make the biggest fights possible and the best shows possible, because it’s gonna be difficult,” Hearn said. “You know, when you come back – whether it’s June, whether it’s July – don’t just expect the whole world to go back to normal. ‘Yeah, OK, we’re gonna go and do an 80,000 show.’ Or, ‘We’re gonna go to the O2 [Arena] and get 20,000.’ That will happen in time, but we need to get the confidence back of the fans. The momentum that we’ve built – and not just us, but everybody’s built for boxing over the last eight, 10 years – has been incredible. And it’s not just boxing, but boxing will suffer in the same way, that that momentum will have slowed down.
“You know, we won’t know until we get back how much it’s slowed down. People will always love boxing, but boxing was so hot, and now you’re gonna be in a situation where three months has been taken away and you haven’t had that fix. So, what we need to try and do is when we are back, we give you the best possible fights, the best possible product, the best possible nights out, the best possible TV programs that we can to show you and remind you how great this sport is.”
Two more Matchroom cards were postponed Monday, when the British Boxing Board of Control extended its suspension of events through the month of May. Those two shows were to feature heavyweights – England’s Dillian Whyte versus Russia’s Alexander Povetkin on May 2 at Manchester Arena in Manchester and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk against England’s Dereck Chisora on May 23 at O2 Arena in London.
Hearn reiterated during the aforementioned IFL TV interview that the Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev heavyweight championship clash could be pushed back from June 20 to July 25.
That’ll depend on the availability of the venue for Joshua’s mandatory IBF title defense, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. Tottenham Hotspur FC’s soccer schedule could include a home match June 20 now that it is in limbo due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.