Exclusive: Eddie Hearn Used To Think He Was Sugar Ray Leonard – But Discovered He Was Too Posh To Box

Hearn this weekend promotes Anthony Joshua’s defence of his WBA and IBF heavyweight titles against Carlos Takam in Cardiff.

There will be around 80,000 fight fans at the Principality Stadium, confirming Hearn as one of the world’s top promoters.

In his teens, Hearn says he had ambitions to fight.

He had three amateur bouts with Billericay Amateur Boxing Club, won the lot, but ‘Eddie Hills’ decided he didn’t have a future as a fighter.

“They introduced me as ‘Eddie Hills’ and I was devastated,” said Hearn.

“I told my dad and I found out it was all his idea. He thought if they knew who I was, they would really put it on me and take liberties.

“I had some skills, I fancied myself a bit, I thought I was Sugar Ray Leonard, but you can’t be a fighter if you grow up in a nice house and go to public school.

“The other lads were much tougher than me.

“I remember seeing one of my opponents in the changing room before we boxed and telling my dad: ‘Great, I’ve got the fat kid.’

“But he almost took my head off.”

Hearn says he had two spells at the club – and remembers the moment he decided to walk away.

“When I was 15, they put me in to spar a lad of 18 or 19 and he gave me a pasting,” he said. “I was miles behind him – and he wasn’t a world beater. I don’t think I went back after that.”

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Hearn’s involvement in boxing.

His father, Barry Hearn, staged his first show in October 1987 – and 40,000 fans filled White Hart Lane for the Frank Bruno-Joe Bugner fight, a fight that sold rather better than it might have done.

The tabloid press and Barry did a good job of selling what was always likely to be a one-sided win for Bruno.

Eight-year-old Eddie was there at ringside, fell in love with the sport – and went on to become one of the world’s biggest promoters by accident.

Hearn spent several years working for a sports marketing agency and said: “I decided to work at Matchroom and worked on the online gaming, producing online poker tournaments.

“I was at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and Audley Harrison was at my table.

“He asked me to get him a six rounder, but I talked him into ‘Prizefighter.’

“I told him if he won that, then he could fight Albert Sosnowski for the European title and David Haye for the world title.

“I just made it up, but everything I promised I delivered and I learned a lot along the way. I didn’t really know what I was doing.

“The Haye-Harrison fight didn’t really deliver and I took the flak.

“After the Haye fight, I thought: ‘That’s me done,’ I didn’t have any ambitions to be a boxing promoter. I just wanted to have fun and make a few quid.

“But a couple of weeks later, Tony Sims contacted me and said: ‘Do you want to look after Darren Barker ?’

“Then I met Kell Brook at a Prizefighter in Liverpool and he said his contract with Frank Warren was coming to an end.

“We met him and signed a contract.

“A couple of weeks later Rob McCracken rang and asked if I wanted to work with Carl Froch.

“It really did happen that quickly.

“In the space of a couple of months we signed up Barker, Brook and Froch and then other fighters wanted to get on board.”

The first show Hearn promoted was Barker-Domenico Spada (in April, 2011) – and says his breakthrough was the Brook-Matthew Hatton fight at Sheffield Arena in 2012.

“Nobody had done an arena fight for a while and we sold 9,000 tickets,” said Hearn.

“That fight was the turning point.

“I think promoters had become lazy and thought: ‘Sky will put up with a Commonwealth title fight topping the bill and an eight-round chief support.’

“That fight showed there was a market for big shows. Sky looked at boxing and thought: ‘This could work.’

“But we only had seven or eight shows a year and you can’t build a stable of fighters on seven or eight shows a year.

“There were four promoters battling each other and it was a mess.

“I told Sky they should give us all the boxing shows, but there should be fewer shows and they should spend more money on them.

“Sky had a good relationship with Matchroom through the darts and other sports and eventually agreed and gave us a two-year deal.”


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