Eddie Hearn hits the U.S.
While it wasn’t technically Eddie Hearn’s first promotion in America, this past weekend at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois, it was the first stateside card for DAZN under the Matchroom Boxing USA banner.
This show provided a solid night of entertainment throughout, from WBA junior featherweight titlist Danny Roman’s latest strong showing, in stopping Gavin McDonnell in 10 and heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller bludgeoning Tomasz Adamek in two to the firefight won by IBF light heavweight titlist Artur Beterbiev in four rounds versus the gutsy Callum Johnson and the hard-fought draw between welterweights Jessie Vargas and Thomas Dulorme.
There’s no doubt this show was overshadowed by the UFC card featuring Conor McGregor, the Major League Baseball playoffs and the full schedule of college football games but Hearn understood what he was getting into.
“Yeah, it’s definitely harder, I mean, we’ll have close to 6,000 in the arena on Saturday night,” said Hearn on Friday afternoon, after the weigh-ins had been completed for this card. He noted that, next week, his promotion in Newcastle, England, will far exceed that number for a European title, while this bill had two world title fights. “So yes, it’s definitely harder to sell tickets in the U.S. than in the U.K.
“We’ve seen that with (middleweight contender) Danny Jacobs. We did 4,500 at Nassau Colieum (in Long Island, New York), 6,000 at Barclays Center, so it’s hard work. I do think the position is improving.”
Hearn, who puts on stadium events in the U.K. with heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, added, “I feel like the ticket revenue is such a small ratio, in terms of the universal revenue of the show that promoters got lazy and haven’t pushed tickets like they do. In the U.K. we’re reliant on ticket sales to make money, so we have to have the same type of mentality and attitude here and I’m pleased with the ticket sales for Saturday. It’s a good start. Tickets are really going well in Boston (for October 20), so we need to try to get to the U.K. crowd, the U.K. side and I’m sure we’ll get in.”
The one thing Hearn does not lack is confidence (yeah, maybe modesty but certainly not bombast and hubris) but he admits, venturing into a foreign market has taught him a few things. “Yeah, completely,” he admits, “I may be a bit brash sometimes but I know we’ve got to learn. We’ve got a great team of people working with Matchroom and we’re learning as we go but we’re very good at what we do. We’ve got bright people. Everyone’s working really hard and we believe that the shows, the production, the package, the entertainment and the value for the money that we will bring from these shows – you look at the show on Saturday night, we’ve got three championship fights – that’s just on the undercard.
“So it’s about giving value for the money and I think viewers and ticket buyers are going to quickly see that the Matchroom brand is synonymous with giving value for money and that’s very important to make sure people keep coming back.”
As this venture with DAZN and Matchoom Boxing kicked off back in May, Hearn made it clear that he would be looking for high end talent to sign all across the world and they came armed with a deep war chest of funds. While he’s gotten some solid pieces like Roman and undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, he hasn’t gotten that true marquee name to sign just yet.
When asked if this has been more difficult than he thought, after a few seconds of contemplating this question, he told UCNLive.com, “Not yet, no. We’re three months into the project and I’m really pleased with the guys that we’ve recruited. Obviously the platform kicks off with one of the biggest stars in the world of boxing, (IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight titlist) Anthony Joshua. We’ve got the undisputed cruiserweight title fight coming up, Usyk-(Tony) Bellew. We signed (WBO junior welterweight beltholder) Maurice Hooker, Danny Roman, (IBF junior lightweight titlist) Tevin Farmer, Jarrell Miller. We’re working with Jessie Vargas; Demetrius Andrade is about to become middleweight world champion.
“So we’ve got some great talent already that we’re working with. Of course we want the star names, whether that’s (Saul) ‘Canelo’ (Alvarez), (Manny) Pacquiao, or a (Gennady) Golovkin and we will get them but we’re not expecting people to welcome us with open arms.”
With the arms race that has become boxing and its various networks and platforms, it’s evident to Hearn that some want to see DAZN fail. “There’s a lot of people in the game doing everything they can to try and obstruct us and try and stop us from progressing. It’s part of the business. We expect that,” said Hearn, who understands the obstacles in their way, as a new venture. “We’re not a brand like ESPN, like Showtime. We’re coming from a standing start, so we’re building and we’re going to give ourselves the credibility we need to attract these star names.”
However old loyalties and alliances can be difficult to break.
Hearn says, ”When you have managers and promoters and advisers saying to people, ‘Oh, you can’t go with DAZN. You’d be crazy. They’re not going to be around longer than for a month. Eddie Hearn, what does he know about the U.S. market?’ of course, it’s going to put off bigger names but you have to keep reenforcing what you’re doing, keep establishing the brand name of DAZN, keep striving for quality and great shows. There’s great production, great marketing, great promotion – we’ll be absolutely fine.
“Like you say, we have a war chest like nobody else but I’m not interested in wasting money. I’m interested in doing great business but we also know we’re over-paying fighters and we’re prepared to do that.”
It’s clear that there is more boxing on now than at any time in recent memory. While that’s good in theory, does the sport runs the risk of being diluted or further fractured, as a result? Hearn isn’t all that concerned; it seems.
“I just think that’s boxing, that’s always been the way,” he explained. “Politics have always stopped fights from happening at a pace or from happening at all. Now when you talk about the dilution in a market, I go the other way – I’m more of a glass-half-full kind of guy, where I think the more broadcasters in the sport, the better. More money in the sport, the better. And I think, for boxing fans, you should absolutely have ESPN+. If you’re a boxing fan, you should absolutely have DAZN. It’s $14.99 a month (total between the two platforms), over a hundred fight nights a year, 150 fight nights a year. They’re both great products for fight fans.
“And you talk about a crowded market place and you talk about the biggest (network) – probably in history – just left . So I think there’s plenty of room for everybody and it’s going to be an interesting time.”
As Hearn mentioned, after 45 years, HBO has exited Bash Boulevard. As previously stated, they became Blockbuster Video in a Netflix world, in terms of boxing.
“You need to have plenty of appetite and you need to have very deep pockets right now and that’s two things I don’t think HBO didn’t have and decided, ‘We don’t want to be an also-ran, so if we can’t be a major player in the sport and all this money going around is completely out of control, we’re going to step back,’ and that’s what I think they’ve done.”
And into the breach steps Hearn and DAZN.
As I like to say, it’s not if you win but how you do so, at times, and WBA bantamweight beltholder Naoya Inoue’s first round destruction of Juan Carlos Payano is the latest example of this…Danny Roman really has developed into a world-class technician the past year or so…Yeah, I can’t lie. I thoroughly enjoyed the UFC main event and its aftermath…I still can’t believe Miami rallied back to defeat FSU…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.