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Frampton v Quigg has Barry Hearn revelling in UK's new golden era

By David Kelly

It may have been overlooked by some observers but boxing in the UK is in the middle of a golden, lucrative period and Barry Hearn is relishing watching his son Eddie drive forward a new generation of stars.

Hearn will be 68 in June but his passion for the sporting business is as fresh as it was in the early 1980s when he was by the side of numerous snooker stars. Then along came a certain Chris Eubank before he diversified into darts and turned it into phenomenal television success with only Premier League football hitting higher viewing figures on Sky.

Boxing had been, to a large degree, off his radar until Eddie told him he wanted the chance to make it a success for Matchroom Sports and now with a six-year Sky deal he is staging numerous pay-per-view shows, including Saturday night's co-promotion with Cyclone Promotions at the Manchester Arena when Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg will finally come face to face.

"The business started back in 1982 underneath a billiard hall... we now have 620 events this year with bases in Shanghai and Beijing and we are the biggest sports promotional company in the world and the biggest supplier of sport to Sky. That's a huge compliment to the people who work for us - and of course my brilliant leadership!" said Hearn, who revealed that he didn't just hand Eddie his opportunity on a plate.

"He was a bit mouthy, like me… I told him you're not ruining my business, you've got to go and prove yourself so he did some work in sports sponsorship, he had to do some cold calling with double glazing. He had to do his apprenticeship and deal with people saying 'no'. So he had about four years of an apprenticeship and then I said right come back and I gave him a job in our golf division and he made a good job of that and the poker.

"Of course he grew up with a bit of a silver spoon in his mouth, he went to private school but he has turned that into gold.

"Boxing was always part of my business but not all of my business because I found that I couldn't build a business around it because of the disloyalty and the lack of support from television.

"Eddie said he wanted to do it and I think he has single-handedly transformed the sport in the UK.

"I said to someone the other day, 'I'd love to be Eddie Hearn for a day!' In today's boxing world, he has made the UK bigger than America.

"Deontay Wilder in his last fight, defending the WBC World heavyweight title got 1.2m dollars - Anthony Joshua, who we promote, sells out 20,000 tickets in minutes and for his last fight which was on pay-per-view on Sky got well over that.

"The idea that you have to go to America to earn bigger money is just not true any more. There's a new young demographic going to boxing now, social media has changed things dramaticallly. Sport needs personalities and Eddie is a personality in himself - 'Fast Eddie'. He's a much better promoter than me."

The way in which Matchroom's boxing business is run in regard to their headline fighters has also changed according to Hearn.

"It used to be that the top fighters were working for the promoters but now talent is king.

"When Eubank and Benn were fighting they were working for me but now the show is for the market leader, the main fighter. We run the show and take a flat percentage of the profit. The fighter gets to see every contract and every show is filed with his accountant and they can see where everything has gone.

"Fighters have the chance to make life-changing money because of pay-per-view, it's where every fighter wants to be."

This brings us nicely to the matter at hand. Frampton and Quigg meet on Sky Box Office and Hearn makes no secret of his desire to see this as the first of two classic encounters.

"I hope it's a great spectacle, I hope to see the lads get a massive cheque and then let's do it all again in Belfast in the summer.

"Personally I think Quigg will be too big, too strong and he punches too hard. I think he stops Frampton. I'm not aiming any criticism at Frampton who I think is a great fighter, I just feel that Quigg will finish him around eight or nine rounds.

"I've watched Quigg get better and better, I've never seen a fighter who is so meticulous. He's the Steve Davis of boxing. If the world was about to end, Geoffrey Boycott would go to the nets one more time, Steve Davis would have a last frame of snooker and Scott Quigg would film himself shadow boxing.

"Of course sometimes things can go wrong, one punch can change things but I don't see that happening."

Belfast Telegraph


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