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Full Context Eddie Hearn

Last Updated: January 1, 2023
The colorful Matchroom Sport Chairman dishes to Boardroom on Jake Paul, Katie Taylor, Al Haymon, and the evolution of both the sport of boxing and the boxing promoter.

For decades, boxing promoters have existed on something of a spectrum. On one end, you have Al Haymon of Premier Boxing Champions — a fully behind-the-scenes power broker who never does media. On the polar-opposite end, you have Don King, a self-parodic cartoon character of the Sweet Science whose bombast may only be exceeded by his unscrupulousness. Somewhere closer to the middle, you’ll find Top Rank’s Bob Arum and Queensberry’s Frank Warren.

But perhaps this spectrum is insufficient to characterize the particular energy of Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn, who brings co-equal heft as a backroom negotiator and an audience-facing personality unlike anyone else in his line of work.

In fact, his animated disposition and sheer quotability gifted to fight fans the popular Twitter entity “No Context Hearn,” an endlessly entertaining tool for furnishing just about every type of emotion or response you never knew your group chat needed.

To get a better sense of the sensibility and experiences that produced both the person and the persona we know as Eddie Hearn, Boardroom caught up with the Matchroom boss to reckon with his place in the boxing establishment, the evolution of the modern fight promoter, working with undisputed lightweight champ Katie Taylor, what he thinks of Jake Paul’s role in combat sports, and much more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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SAM DUNN: You’re a boxing promoter, but you have this personality that resonates in a different sort of way than other big promoters like Bob Arum and Al Haymon. Do you feel like you’re different?

EDDIE HEARN: The business is very similar over the years. I don’t think it changes a lot; the way that you promote and the way that you interact with your audience has changed considerably.

My dad is a Hall of Fame promoter. I think the difference between me and that generation is the interaction, the ability to speak to the audience, to understand the audience, to respond to them. We live in an age of content now; we’re very much focused on the content side, the narrative, the story away from just fight night.

Over the last decade but particularly since the pandemic, a lot of sports that have grown considerably are the ones that have really embraced digital content. You look at what the UFC have done, you look at what WWE have done — other fight sports, if you like, which we attempt to emulate at times. You see that the digital content and the way they interact with their customers across social media is key, and we are the frontrunners of that in boxing.

SD: Unfortunately, Boxing Twitter alone can be an absolute self-replenishing tire fire. Are you one of those “my DMs are open” types, either on Twitter or Instagram?

EH: I find the two platforms quite different; Instagram can still be brutal, but Twitter is horrific. Horrific. I mean, I don’t have open DMs on Twitter, but I don’t really need them because unfortunately I still read the comments. I’ve filtered my comments to that of only people who I follow, which was a move in the right direction, but just like I said, the bigger that you get, the more the criticism comes. Fortunately, we’ve become very big, but I should really step back from that world and not really read.

Like, I can’t imagine Dana White or Vince McMahon going through comments on social media and looking, but that’s just me. It’s a passion and I shouldn’t do it, but I wanna know what the audience thinks.

SD: It’s addictive, Eddie. We have to admit there’s a dopamine hit from these platforms that we’re all chasing.

EH: Yeah, not good. I think certainly my world would be a much better place without social media because it’s where you get your information, [but] a lot of the time it’s negativity. So, you’re pumping negativity and information into you that you really don’t need to be seeing or hearing, in all honesty.

I know a lot of people and promoters who don’t actually run their own social media accounts; I just don’t feel like that feels real. That world got me to where I am, and to turn my back on it completely would be almost like, “Thanks for that platform, Instagram and Twitter. We’ve become very big, very successful and I’ll leave you there and someone else will run the account for me. Bye.”

SD: I don’t think you’d be able to get away with it if you tried. There’s a demand for your personality given the unique territory it occupies in the sport.

EH: And also, we live in a world where the media outlets around boxing are generally 40 people who have their own YouTube channel who want an interview with me after every press conference, every weigh-in, and every fight, and we give them that accessibility. Can you imagine Don King back in the day just doing a raw interview on YouTube with a random boxing outlet? That would have been wild.

SD: I’m trying to picture a “No Context Don King” Twitter account right now. I’m also trying and failing to picture “No Context Al Haymon” because no one ever sees him. I have no idea what the guy’s voice even sounds like.

EH: Al Haymon is very clever. The first time I ever met him, we were looking to do the Carl Froch-Julio Caesar Chavez fight. I flew to Los Angeles and all of a sudden this guy walked in with this hat on. He’s a very powerful man, he’s a very bright man, very successful man, but the aura is just not there. You meet people who are successful and powerful and you can feel them walk into the room, but he’s a very quiet, very unassuming man.

We sat there and we talked, and when Al wants something, he’ll give you all his time. When he doesn’t, you can’t even have a conversation with him. Basically, that’s how he works, but he’s very clever. That whole act of sort-of anonymity is amazing because I’ve been in situations where I’ve promoted fighters that Al Haymon has advised, and after the fight, one of the people who worked with Al had gone into the changing room and gone, “Al’s on the phone, he wants to speak to you.” And the fighter goes, “Oh, really? Really?” And he takes the phone and goes into the bathroom and then comes out and goes, “Ah, that was Al Haymon. He said I boxed really well.” I’m like, I flew over the other side of the world to be with you tonight [laughs] and you don’t feel that way about me.

So, that sort of illusion of power is something that — you know, fighters want to be advised by Al Haymon. Some of them have never met him who [are advised by] him. Most haven’t, actually.

SD: How is that even possible in 2022? It’s uncanny that he can be that sort of 1-of-1 in his space. No one else could emulate it even if they tried.

EH: No, but I think with a dominant promoter and a face, I think PBC would’ve done very well. They spent a lot of money, having free TV deals where ultimately they were funding their own rights deal to be on that platform. I just feel like what Al did was employ a number of different promoters to essentially run those PBC shows, but he never wanted to give the job to someone with enough power or a bigger platform to become bigger than the PBC, you know?

I feel like they missed that figurehead because even at the press conferences, it might be a TV exec or a journalist [that] runs the presser, you need an out-and-out frontman. Look at UFC with Dana White, look at WWE with Vince McMahon. You need a frontman of the sport, a voice, a character, a personality. I think PBC really missed that.

SD: They basically made a concerted effort to be the opposite.

EH: It was, “We don’t like promoters. We don’t want promoters.”

SD: Whether it’s boxing or MMA or pro wrestling, I don’t think you can afford to lean away from the idea that sometimes this is the circus. You occasionally have to accept that it’s sometimes about the spectacle as much as the sport itself. Dana White gets this; Haymon opted out.

EH: I think sometimes we get some criticism. People will say, “You make it about you.” Not really at all, we just try and make the fights as big as possible and build the fight’s profile as big as possible. If I’m a fighter, I want a promoter that’s passionate about my career and uses his platform to be my voice when I’m sleeping and when I’m training.

It’s important to get the mix right, but at the same time, you need a powerhouse commercially that’s gonna drive your profile during those times, and that’s my job. I’ve built a platform, and also as a business, you don’t wanna solely rely on talent. I’ve built a profile in boxing where broadcasters won’t sign a deal just because it’s Eddie Hearn, but there is a method to the madness there. They’re [also] getting the guy who’s got the profile, who knows how to maneuver the sport, knows how to build the narrative.

That’s the reason I’ve done what I’ve done because I saw that in UFC and I saw that in WWE and I felt [that] you look at UFC now, if I said to you, “tell me three words about the UFC that come to your head,” you’d go, “Dana White,” right? And when you say WWE, I would say Vince McMahon — he would certainly be my top three. In boxing, certainly in the UK, if you said to someone, “Give me three names in boxing,” I think they’d probably go Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury, and Eddie Hearn.

There’s a method to that, man. You can’t just rely on talent all the time.

SD: There’s no way that “No Context Eddie Hearn” would be a thing if folks weren’t fascinated with the particular wavelength that you’re on.

EH: To be honest with you, I want to be a star. I always wanted to be a star as a kid. If you gave me a choice, I’d wanna be an athlete, but I wasn’t good enough, so this is kind of like the next best thing, working in sports. And I wanna be front and center.

That’s just what my personality’s like. Sometimes, it’s extremely draining and you want to go hide for two or three weeks, but deep down, I’m a performer; some people call me a performing seal. I’ll just get rolled out, and the size of our business right now is very much like that. I’ll do four hours of talking and I’ll go do another one, then I’ll fly somewhere else and I’ll get rolled out again. That’s my job.

SD: You’ve promoted Katie Taylor for a while. She’s such a refreshingly low-key person. As partners, the juxtaposition of her personality and yours is fascinating.

EH: So often think she must look at me and think, “What on earth is he going on about?” She’ll never tell you how great she is; because she won’t speak up, I do it on her behalf. You got Claressa Shields out there who can’t stop telling you how great she is. Literally every 10 seconds on Twitter, right?

If you said to Katie Taylor, “Have you read the comments on social media?” She would say, “What are you talking about?” She just laughs at it. She’s like, “I know what I wanna achieve. Why on earth would I listen to anybody else other than the closest people around me to get where I want to get to?” She’s an amazing individual and she’s been a big part of our business and a big part of our success and enjoyment of the sport. She’s refreshing. She really is.

She won’t tell you how great she is, but I will. I’ll tell you how she changed the face of amateur boxing, convinced the IOC to make female boxing an Olympic sport. Now, every promoter under the sun wants to get involved in female boxing. Broadcasters didn’t want to be involved; now they’re all over it. She did that.

So, I like telling people how great she is, but we are very different. But she — I don’t mean to sound egotistical when I say so — knows how good I am. You know, she reached out to me initially and said, basically, “I need you. I need a promoter like you if I’m gonna do this.” And I just had a meeting with her, really out of respect, and it’s been the most incredible journey.

SD: The Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano fight was a landmark moment and incredibly entertaining. There’s an interesting parallel to your fighter-promoter relationship with Taylor and Serrano’s relationship with Jake Paul and Most Valuable Promotions — how do you view him within the business of combat sports?

EH: It brings a lot of attention to boxing, which is great. You know, I’ve done YouTube boxing. I did Logan Paul against KSI 2 at the Staples Center. It was a huge success; I wouldn’t do it again. I’d say never, but it’s definitely not something I wanna do again, but I wouldn’t even say Jake Paul’s necessarily YouTube boxing. He’s really entering the official world of boxing. It just so happens he’s a YouTuber, so it brings a big audience with him.

I think he’s good for the sport. I’ve dealt with him, and Nakisa [Bidarian] from MVP for that fight. It was a huge success. He brought a lot to the promotion. We just worked so well together. I interacted with the boxing and the sporting world and he interacted with his world, which is a massive platform within itself. And, you know, I like what he’s doing. I don’t mind it at all.

I think some fighters feel like it’s taking opportunities away from them and other fighters. Not really; you know, he’s very bright, Jake Paul. He’s built this incredible fan base and following. That means he can do whatever he wants and get paid a lot of money to do it, so good luck to him.

SD: Even if the only thing that he did in boxing was providing more visibility for someone like Amanda Serrano, who was already a multiple-division champion and talented as all hell, that alone would have been massive.

EH: Serrano made a million dollars for that fight. Without Jake Paul’s involvement, I might have paid her $600,000.

SD: On the merits of what he’s done for the women’s fight game, even if it was literally all self-serving reasons — I’m not saying it was; just as a thought exercise — there are still unambiguously positive results that have come from it. We may need to state that clearer to the skeptics.

EH: There’s no problem with being a show and a spectacle first. The drama. We can’t be too intrinsic in our boxing world, in our small little boxing community that we live in and we all love, because it’s just too small. Jake Paul reaches outside of that boxing community and brings fresh eyes to the sport.

SD: Okay, hard pivot: Who’s your favorite fighter of all time?

EH: Sugar Ray Leonard. I guess it’s all about the era that you grew up in. For me, when I started following boxing at eight years old, that was the era. He was getting to the end. But like Leonard, Hagler, Duran, Hearns — they were my favorite fighters. And Mike Tyson, I guess, because that was the same era of me growing up.

I used to watch Sugar Ray Leonard, and when I started with DAZN, I said to him [that] I really wanted to use him as a pundit. We signed him, and that was a good moment. I got to meet him and, I don’t know, it was his face and the shorts and the tassels. Growing up, I was just fascinated by him and just thought that he was the main man.

SD: Can you tease us on some of the big events coming our way on Matchroom and DAZN?

EH: We can’t wait, Chocolatito-Estrada III in Phoenix [Dec. 3] — for me, one of the best fights I’ve ever seen live [was] No. 2. No. 1 was also a great fight. And then we finish with Josh Warrington in Leeds Dec. 10 in a really tough fight. He’s got a very tough fight against the mandatory challenger [Luis] Lopez, and then already now [we’re] putting together the schedule for January and February, looking to, to build on big fights internationally, especially in America as well, but also around the world.

SD: Last question, circling back to the idea of this influencer-driven culture of ours and its interplay with boxing: What would it take to get you to lace up the gloves for four rounds of exhibition?

EH: Probably $10 million.

SD: All right, cool.

EH: Four rounds. Four rounds is probably all I could do.

SD: Great, I’ll see if we can crowdsource your $10 million purse minimum. Maybe on Kickstarter.

EH: Please don’t.

Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez vs. Juan Francisco Estrada 3 goes down Saturday, Dec. 3 for the WBC and Ring super flyweight championships. The main card begins at 8 p.m. ET on DAZN, with main event ring walks expected at approximately 11 p.m. ET.

Josh Warrington vs. Luis Alberto Lopez is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10 for the IBF featherweight championship on DAZN.

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.