Eddie Hearn is looking forward to a break of some sort as one of the most energy-sapping years of his career as a boxing promoter edges to a close. Last week it was Vegas, this weekend he will be ringside in Liverpool before a trip to Kazakhstan and then Manchester on December 18.
“It’s knackering but I feel I shouldn’t moan because it’s what I wanted,” says Hearn who has headline acts across the globe.
A decade ago he started to change the face of boxing with his own brash brand of promotion, dovetailing perfectly with the all-consuming rise of social media, delivering pay-days for fighters that many could only have dreamed about. Having worked exclusively on Sky, Hearn signed a multi-million pound UK deal with streaming giant DAZN, with whom he already has a US contract.
“I did have a good moment the other day, thinking how lucky I am and I do thank DAZN for this global project which has always been a dream of ours to try and dominate the boxing world globally,” said Hearn, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph.
“It’s also tough being away from the family so I have to balance that to make sure I don’t get too much stick from the missus but she understands my mind and my purpose, so it’s good, but this has been a long run and I’m looking forward to December 19 because that’s us clear for three weeks.
“Mind you when I do go back home the missus doesn’t say ‘oh you must be tired’, go in the spare room and get some sleep, she says there’s your children (Isabella and Sophia) and then I have to go into super dad mode and that’s almost harder than being on the road promoting. So I’ll be at the press conference in Liverpool and then have to make sure I’m home for dinner because I can’t come back and then stay in Liverpool all week — and there’s the school run to do.”
Home is in Essex where he learned the business of promoting from now semi-retired dad Barry who developed his company Matchroom into a powerhouse — developing stars across many sports, such as boxing, darts and snooker.
“He comes into the office a couple of times a week and I tell him what’s happening for about 30 seconds and then he just says, ‘oh I’m glad to be out of that, you crack on.’ He has been there, he knows the aggravation. He kind of feels sorry for me but actually not really.”
Making stars is his business and he loves it, which brings us to Hearn’s latest signing — Belfast’s unbeaten middleweight Caoimhin Agyarko who this Saturday night is part of that Liverpool show which is led by welterweight star Conor Benn and undisputed women’s world lightweight champion Katie Taylor. The Bray woman makes her latest defence against Kazakhstan’s Firuza Sharipova.
Hearn promoted former world champion Carl Frampton in the early stages of his career and took fellow Belfast man Ryan Burnett to world title glory, while also guiding James Tennyson and Tommy McCarthy to European success. Now he believes Agyarko cannot only be a success in the ring but also generate a passionate following.
“When you talk about a headliner or flagship star there are two things in an ideal world that you want. Number one is a quality fighter and number two is someone that sells. The two don’t always go hand in hand for a number of reasons. With Caoimhin I believe that he has star quality in terms of ability. The next stage will be building and growing him in Belfast,” said Hearn.
“We’re playing catch-up a little — there’s good and bad in that. Bad because you haven’t had the chance to build him properly but good because you don’t have to give him easy touches… like this Saturday he’s fighting a guy who’s unbeaten, and from there we can really move him on.
“I remember Adam Booth approaching me about him just before he turned pro. He said there’s this kid who’s really special and I get those phone calls four times a day. I trust Adam’s opinion but I hadn’t heard of him and I didn’t know about Caoimhin’s ability and I had too many young fighters that I said ‘no’ and then I saw him pop up on a Frank Warren show and I thought ‘wow this kid can really fight, he’s really exciting’.
“When we got an approach from his manager Paul Ready, who used to matchmake for us, the timing was perfect. Belfast is there, it’s ready and waiting and you can’t go wrong but it’s about how well can you do it. Can you fill the Odyssey? I think the fans will get behind him. Belfast fans know the game and if they feel they have someone that might just go all the way and challenge in the middleweight division I think they’ll back him.
“The fight needs to be big enough to bring him home. I see us having two more fights before we’re in a position to do that. With what we’re doing now with DAZN every show has to be a big name… Caoimhin fighting against someone you’ve never heard of is not a fight for Belfast. Caoimhin against Gabe Rosado, a gate keeper at world level who has been in some great fights, that kind of fight is when you roll the dice. We’ve got a lot of work to do, we’ve got to build him in the right way, but I’m happy to give him a platform to shine because I believe he will.”
Just as the building process starts with Agyarko, Hearn knows that his job with Katie Taylor is to cement her legacy with a series of exciting bouts over the next couple of years. Should Taylor come through against underdog Sharipova then Hearn expects to rubber stamp a blockbuster clash with Puerto Rican featherweight champion Amanda Serrano. Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day seems to be the target.
“The Serrano fight is very close to being done. If Katie wins and Serrano wins then it’s on, It’s the biggest female fight of all time. Madison Square Garden are licking their lips because they know it’s a super-fight and they want to host the biggest women’s fight in history.
“But I’m a bit worried about this fight because this girl is a bit of an unknown quantity and she looks young, fresh and strong and she says she is going to knock Katie out, she can’t let it go to points. Fingers crossed for this one.
“I would love to see Katie retire undefeated. I don’t want to see her get beat and the only way you get beat is carry on too long… but there is a long way to go. We’re not looking for her to escape undefeated but at some point it would be nice for the legacy to say ‘I was unbeaten as a pro’.
“That rarely, rarely happens when you’ve been at that level of greatness.
“I probably see two Serrano fights because they’ll be so good and so big and then, after that, Chantelle Cameron at 140 and Jessica Macaskill at 147, but then how long do you want to go and how much more do you have left to achieve? I don’t like having that conversation with Katie because she looks like she’s going to kill me.”
One piece of the Taylor jigsaw that remains missing is a bout on Irish soil, but Hearn insists he is determined to make that a reality.
“It would be a big regret of everybody if she didn’t fight there at some point. I think it can happen and Belfast is an option that may work quite well. MSG is the home of Taylor-Serrano but after that I’d really like her to fight in Ireland.”
And with that, Hearn returns to his relentless assault on world boxing, hoping Caoimhin Agyarko can show him in Liverpool on Saturday night that he can play his part in an exciting future.
What do you love most about boxing?
Seeing people achieve their dreams and create a legacy, starting with a young fighter and then seeing them achieve win world titles and set themselves up financially and then walk away happy
What do you hate most about boxing?
The politics and the pull-outs, some real and some not – the kicks in the nuts.
Who is the biggest influence in your life?
I’ll say my mum because she keeps me grounded… my dad’s a bit of a flash Harry but mum keeps me grounded
What’s your biggest strength?
My engine, my workrate because I’m not a genius. I’m not an intellectual, I’m fairly limited but my workrate is strong.
What’s your biggest weakness?
The fact that I’m my own worst critic. I’m never happy enough with what I’ve done
Name the five people, across history, you would invite for a dinner party?
Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Michael Jordan and Gandhi
What’s been the best moment of your life?
The birth of my children
What’s been the worst moment of your life?
Probably Anthony Joshua losing to Andy Ruiz in Madison Square Garden
What’s the best bit of wisdom you’ve got from life?
Don’t over-think things and focus on a short-term goal rather than long term goals because too many people have a dream of this and that but they’re not prepared to get over the initial hurdles to get there. Take every day as it comes and get over that... I think that’s the biggest problem for people when you talk about mental health, people worrying about things they have no control over rather than thinking about the problems in front of them.
How do you want to be remembered?
As someone who didn’t take himself too seriously… obviously you want to achieve things in life but someone who was a good dad, a good guy and people would say ‘he was alright’.