Fury-Joshua fallout: Trust and the fork in the road

It’s been a few days since Eddie Hearn’s interview with IFL TV and I’ve decided to let things marinate because, well, when in Rome, right? The Matchroom Boxing kingpin stole headlines when he explained how he’d been “naïve” and “too trusting” when dealing with Tyson Fury’s promoter/team, including rival promoter Bob Arum. It got me thinking, because I’ve been naïve about things before. Plenty of them. 

I’ve assumed people were telling me the truth, and here’s an example: believing a member of staff had signed off on an order of beer mats for a pub I used to work in. Silly me, it wasn’t done, it cost us an extra £65, and the bar was a bit sticky until they were delivered. Here’s another one: I believed a woman I worked with was genuinely calling in sick, only to find out she was drunk the night before her shift. So trusting, I know. 

The thing is, neither of those two examples had repercussions to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds (or dollars), although that £65 does still leave a bad taste in my mouth. If they did, or even if they potentially could have, I would have acted in a more robust fashion; I would have tried to carry out some intense due diligence. I would have made sure – if I could. I didn’t tell anyone that would listen about just “how bloody dry the bottom of these pint glasses will be” and how I was “the one making that woman’s full recovery happen!” But similarly, nobody was throwing cameras under my nostrils desperate for repetitive, daily updates and starving clickbait. Hearn, as an affable, fun public figure, hangs himself out to dry.

In both instances of my naivety, the ultimate responsibility lay with me. You have to suck that up, don’t you?

Hearn must be praised and scoffed at in equal measure when reviewing the doomed Anthony Joshua vv Tyson Fury undisputed clash/saga that never was. He tried, tried, and tried again – but he boasted of being the man to make it work so often, he sounded like a school janitor. He surrendered for every thumbnail and gave the media every headline they craved, because it was what everybody wanted – this writer included. And now, when all is said and done, he must bear the brunt of his own naivety.

It’s fair to ask why, when dealing with five months of protracted, difficult, one-sided negotiations, would you suddenly assume that an arbitration would dissolve on the strength of a half-promise? Fury and Arum have handled themselves poorly; they have buried their heads in Saudi sand and allowed the circus to gather pace – that’s unprofessional, and was always going to lead to disappointment.

Hearn, it seems, had assumed that fallen WBC champion Deontay Wilder would accept a barrel-load of money to step aside, with the Brentwood man being quoted in this recent interview as saying: “There is always a deal to be done.” But just because step-aside money was once appealing to a struggling, commercially average fighter from the deep south doesn’t mean it’s now the answer to his prayers after multiple, headline PPV events. I’d wager that at a point, maybe there isn’t always a deal to be done; there isn’t always a price.

Malik Scott – Wilder’s newest pad man or trainer – agreed. “We’re not stepping aside,” he stated. Though it was unclear whether the pair’s refusal to budge was due to the weight of Wilder’s attire.

The truth is that Eddie Hearn cops so much flack because he is consistently willing to put himself in the firing line. He is the most enthusiastic, passionate promoter in the United Kingdom – and one of the best in boxing overall. But in over-extending himself, he leaves the door ajar for an onslaught of fans’ criticism and David Brent-esque memes – you’ve all seen the “it is definitely, 100% on” compilation by now.

It seems that here though, with the world watching for a promised monster clash, he was a victim of his own self-belief and unshakeable confidence, which are assets required to become as successful as he has in a relatively short spell at the top of the sport. Whether Bob Arum and Tyson Fury’s army of ‘advisors’ knew this would be the likely outcome, we’ll never truly know, but the pace of contracts being signed and the announcement of the trilogy fight between the Morecambe-man and Alabama’s winging Wilder was telling. Was it always on the cards? Maybe. But maybe not.  

Hearn’s claims that everybody thought the arbitration was a foregone conclusion have since been disproven by Frank Warren’s interview in November 2020 with ESPN. Another act of genuine optimism; another risky soundbite.

Matchroom’s Chairman asked why-oh-why Arum & Co. didn’t take the opportunity to withdraw from the contracted rematch we’re set to endure on July 24th? When things are dragging on for almost half-a-year and movement is minimal (regardless of where the fault lies), why place faith in the fact it will all come together, like some freaky jigsaw? It isn’t surprising to me that Arum and Top Rank, including Team Fury, kept Wilder on strings while Hearn pulled out all the stops – it was an easy to fight to make and pulling out of a juicy money-spinner in the heavyweight division without a guarantee of the Joshua blockbuster would have been rash.

And here we are. For those of us stuck in the middle, we await the glamour division’s next steps. Joshua vs Usyk and Fury vs Wilder still works for most boxing fans, but let’s not kid ourselves they act as like-for-like replacements; even as a BOGOF offer stuck in a basket at the front of the shop, you’d need your arm twisted a little bit. Just a little bit.

It doesn’t seem as though Hearn has learned to keep his cards close to his chest, and that’s probably what makes him so popular. Instead, he’s stretched out his finger, pointing it firmly at any (and all) of the other names involved.

When plotting a bout worth a rumoured $150,000,000, taking up five months of your time, flooding YouTube channels, websites, social media posts and print outlets in the hope of honest, fair negotiation… the small print reigns supreme. Because despite the bias of the fans and their belief in whatever certain people feed them, sadly, it was never a sure thing.