''I Don't Want To Just Be Remembered As A Meme.'' Eddie Hearn's Big Plans For Boxing

Eddie opens up on his life and his hopes of emulating the UFC model in boxing
16:46, 14 Dec 2020

It’s 11:30am on a cold winter’s day and as his Rolls Royce cuts across the Essex countryside, Eddie Hearn is in a somewhat reflective mood. “I don’t want to just be remembered as a meme,” he insists. “I want to be remembered as a good operator, a good businessman and an entrepreneur, so I thought, let's do something different…”

The memes he speaks of are spearheaded by the now famous parody Twitter account @nocontexthearn, its content fuelled by Hearn’s innate ability to stand in front of a camera, anywhere, anytime, and talk with absolute confidence on any subject. The ‘‘something different” is the new Sunday Times best seller, ‘Relentless. 12 Rounds To Success’, a refreshingly honest account of Hearn’s rise to the top, from a cold-calling window salesman in Romford to the face of British boxing around the world. 

The notion that the 41-year-old Essex lad will only be remembered as a meme, however, is somewhat unlikely. Son of the famous snooker promoter Barry Hearn, Eddie became the face of boxing via a fortuitous meeting with professional boxer and British olympian Audley Harrison, MBE, in 2007 (they played at the same table during a World Poker Series in Las Vegas), a move that would ultimately see him sign the first $1 billion boxing deal between Matchroom Boxing and sports streaming provider DAZN a decade later. 

Photography: Charlie Gray
Photography: Charlie Gray

And yet, as much as he’s done, Hearn’s ultimate ambition for boxing appears to be world domination, a plan built, believe it or not, on the blueprint of Dana White’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). But more of that later. For now, it’s back to the Sunday Times best-selling book which, even for a man as versatile as Eddie Hearn, was slightly unexpected.

“Yeah, when lockdown kicked in I was a little bit scared I suppose,” he admits. “I like to be fast-paced, I don’t like to have time on my hands. Suddenly I had no shows, I was stuck indoors and although I knew we had to save boxing, I wanted another project. I just thought, wouldn’t it be funny to write a book on business.”

You go right back to your childhood in the book. Was it a cathartic process or did you leave out a lot?

No, I was really honest. You go through the process of your life, and you start to realise why things happened, and maybe why you behaved in a certain way. I wasn’t really proud of my behaviour when I was a kid, although it wasn’t always my fault. I was brought up in this crazy laddish life, travelling around the world with fighters, staying in great hotels, and living the life of a son of a celebrity. I just didn’t respect teachers, or authority, like I should have done. And you remember those things (during the writing process), so it was very honest and quite revealing in terms of the mindset.

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You mention in the book that your dad sometimes stops as you both walk around the grounds of the house and says that he can’t believe how far he has come. Is it a different feeling for you?

Yeah, it is, because I grew up in that house, so I’m not going to walk around it saying, ‘I can’t believe all this!’ I’m eternally grateful and I’ll never take anything for granted, but at the same time I do get jealous when he says, ‘You just don’t understand where I come from’. I’m aware of that lifestyle, I’m not just a sort of deluded rich kid, but at the same time I’ve never experienced it, and it must be a wonderful feeling. So our goals are a bit different. He wanted a mansion in the country, but I never thought like that because I lived in one.

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So what does Eddie Hearn want?

I want a legacy. I want to take what he created to levels that we never thought possible as a family or a business. That’s my only way. I’m a failed athlete. Anyone who works in sport is a failed athlete. If I had a choice in life, it would be to be a success on the cricket pitch, but I wasn’t good enough, so this is my chance to compete.

Is winning everything?

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Yes, but that’s how I was brought up. Of course taking part is important, as are sportsmanship, manners and respect, but winning…you can’t lie to yourself, winning is everything.

Your book is a guide to building a successful business. Is there anything you can’t teach in your line of work?

You can’t teach the hustle. That’s in you. What makes me good at what I do is that I can go into a boardroom with a blue-chip company and talk business from top to bottom. But then I can go into a boxing gym on a council estate and talk to fighters and their families. I’ve been around that all my life and, although I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I’m also very streetwise, and you need to have that blend. 

Anything else?

Being a showman. You can’t teach that, you either have the personality to light up a room and sell to the world, or you don’t. I can’t tell you that I was programmed to be a promoter, and a salesman, and a showman, it’s just in me. The hustle and hard work, that comes from within, but that also comes from finding a passion for something. You can trick yourself to work hard, but you can’t trick yourself to work hard consistently and with the same drive if you actually don’t love what you do.

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You talk a lot about never being outworked in business. Do you ever switch off?

No. I honestly never do. It’s probably the one thing that is quite sad and something I have to work on. Lockdown helped me in that respect, because it was getting to the point where I was almost too obsessed with winning, and flying out to America every other week. But there is no excuse for being outworked, because while talent is something you can’t control, hard work is something you can. One thing my dad and I acknowledge is that we are not intellectuals, but we do have the talent. And if you have talent and you work hard then you’re unbeatable.

You also seem remarkably chipper most of the time, which is quite rare for a boxing promoter...

That’s because I haven’t been tarnished by the boxing bitterness pill. Any person who works in boxing for any amount of time will eventually end up miserable and bitter. It doesn’t make them a bad person, but it doesn’t matter if it’s Bob Arum, Frank Warren, even my dad until he stepped away from boxing, they are all the same…miserable.

Why?

Because everyone is trying to fuck you, non-stop. Fights fall through, disappointments occur, it’s just constant aggravation. Bob Arum is 89, Warren is coming up to 70. I know it’s their business but you’ve only got to watch one interview and see the blood pressure boil out of control; I don’t want to be doing it when I’m that age, fuck that!

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So if it’s not going to be boxing, what is it going to be?

From a business perspective, beyond boxing it’s definitely football and music. I mean, who says I can’t become the biggest football agent in the country? I know the sport, I was the director of a football club. Is that something I look at? I know how to promote live events... well, could I do music? They are the challenges because after a while you want something that’s fresh. And that’s basically why I wrote the book, because I never thought I would. Could I write a book that sells? Yes. Ok, done. What’s next?

As much as you argue publicly with Arum and Warren, you must enjoy the competition?

Yeah I love it, because it comes back to winning, and without them I can’t win. If it’s just me, then you get complacent, you get bored, who are you competing against? While these old boys are around they keep me occupied.

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Does your youth give you a better understanding of your audience?

One hundred per cent. We understand the audience because we are the audience. The problem with Frank Warren, Bob Arum and my dad is that they are so out of touch with the way people are digesting content. Frank Warren doesn’t even use his social media account, someone else posts for him. I mean, how can you possibly understand your audience that way?

So it’s genuinely you at the end of every tweet?

Always me. I would never let someone else do it. One, it’s not real, and two, you don’t get the feedback. It can be quite a toxic place, and I can get criticism after criticism, but that is your audience, that’s the paying customer and you can’t just ignore them. Matchroom Boxing is the size it is because we listened, so when we get to the top we can’t just turn our backs on everyone who got us to where we are.

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In the book you said that you wanted to make boxing as big and as popular as the Premier League or F1. Arguably that mission is accomplished, so what’s next in boxing?

The only aim now is to become the sole global dominant force in terms of boxing and promotions, which has never been done before. We want to create the UFC of boxing. 

The UFC of boxing? Explain.

The UFC is huge, it sold for $4 billion, four years ago. And the reason being is because all the negatives we have in boxing don’t exist in UFC. But, the UFC can’t compare to boxing in terms of its history and global fanbase. So we have an opportunity to create what the UFC has created but, in my opinion, make it even bigger. One of the problems with boxing is that it is so fragmented with governing bodies, the politics from broadcasters, the promoters who don’t like each other…well I look at the UFC and think how great would that be? Imagine if you had all the talent in-house, you could just make any fight you want, and then how great would boxing be?

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Much like UFC president Dana White, you are now as famous as any of your fighters. Are there any downsides to fame?

You can’t escape. So all day I’m talking, I’m selling, and then at the end of it all l might want to go for a meal, or take a holiday, but it’s always all eyes on you. My kids see it more than I see it. We were in Starbucks the other day and they pointed out some people filming us and I’m like, hang on, this is not what I signed up for to be honest, I never wanted to be a celebrity. I’m never rude to people, they are my customers, but it is difficult. Then again, I can’t say it’s terrible, because they are all following me on social media and watching my stuff. You can’t have it both ways. 

So how long before we see you on I’m A Celebrity?

Never. They asked me a couple of years ago but it’s not for me.

Eddie Hearn’s book, Relentless, 12 Rounds To Success, is available on Amazon

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