Barry Hearn hailed the sporting stars he has worked with during his career promoting everything from darts to snooker as he was made an OBE.
The 73-year-old is the chairman of Matchroom Sport, a company which owns, produces and promotes 12 sports, but it was as the manager of fledgling snooker professional Steve Davis that his sporting journey took off.
Hearn was made an OBE by the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle on Wednesday and he said after the ceremony: “It’s a lovely accolade to have – I think everyone loves a pat on the back.
“People, myself included, sometimes get overlooked because of the talent of the stars, and quite rightly. They’re the ones that give the performance and sacrifice their lives to achieve their dreams.
“But for me, as someone who wasn’t capable of competing at their level, to actually be involved in the organisation and promotion (of sport) around the world is the next best thing.”
Davis dominated snooker during the 1980s and his battles with opponents in the World Snooker Championship finals helped cement the popularity of the sport.
Hearn, who was a chartered accountant before managing Davis, said about their time working together: “It was an incredible adventure – two council house boys who came from nothing.
“One was a great, great player and the other one had a lot of mouth, shouted a lot – but a pretty decent promoter in his day. It all started in 1976 when we first met and in 1981 he won his first championship.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t be here without Steve Davis’s career, and the best thing is we’re still best friends nearly 50 years later.”
Hearn went on to become chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation in 2001 and has overseen an explosion in interest in the sport and helped boost prize money to record levels.
Matchroom is one of the major promoters in boxing with Anthony Joshua, Katie Taylor and Josh Warrington part of its stable.
Hearn is also the president of League Two football club Leyton Orient.
He encountered some health issues in 2020, suffering what was described as a minor heart attack in April and then testing positive for coronavirus in October, just days after son Eddie also tested positive, but made a recovery.