As the new kid on the block in American boxing promotion, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport is well aware he has made a few enemies throughout his recent British invasion.
Hearn, the promoter of unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs), is also aware most U.S. fans look at him as a villain and heap the majority of the blame his way for a fall superfight against WBC champion Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) not coming into fruition.
“Everybody does,” Hearn told CBS Sports. “It’s no problem.”
On Tuesday in Manhattan, Hearn and Joshua joined mandatory opponent Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) to announce that their Sept. 22 fight in London will air as the debut headliner of Hearn’s eight-year, $1 billion deal to broadcast fights exclusively in the U.S. on the OTT all-sports streaming service DAZN, which goes live in America 12 days earlier. Asked specifically whether the impending announcement was the real reason why Joshua decided not to repay Showtime’s loyalty, instead bringing his trio of world titles to DAZN and eschewing a fight against Wilder (who fights on Showtime) in favor of Povetkin, Hearn’s expression never changed.
“No, the reason why we’re not getting Wilder is he refused to sign the contract on the terms he agreed,” Hearn said. “If we didn’t want the fight, we wouldn’t have ever sent him a contract. I wouldn’t have spent four months traveling around and wasting my time with late-night phone calls to agree on terms. We agreed on terms and we sent them a contract, but they didn’t send it back, they didn’t even send any comments back.”
The public negotiations between Wilder and Joshua in recent months devolved quickly into a comical soap opera filling with far too many “he said, he said” moments to chart on a timeline. Although the fight appeared to be close to getting finalized for October in the U.K. multiple times, one’s belief in how it fell apart is largely dependent upon which fighter’s team you believe has been telling the truth more often.
“We all were going in skeptical about it because you can’t trust Eddie Hearn,” Wilder told ESPN’s “The Boxing Beat” on Monday. “Eddie Hearn is not a guy that you can trust, it’s just point blank and period about that. Every time we did something, they wanted to come back and serve the ball like we were playing tennis or something. We were trying to get the deal done, as you can see. We did everything, we did everything.”
The one voice that was barely heard from throughout the negotiation from a public standpoint was Joshua, 28, who left the talking to Hearn opposite Wilder and co-manager Shelly Finkel. From his perspective, after making a meteoric rise in recent years to become the sport’s biggest global star, wasting time with words is below him. The deal fell apart, his mandatory was due, so Joshua would rather fight Povetkin than risk ever being stripped of one of his belts.
“Unfortunately, why I don’t say much on these negotiations is that I’m not really interested like the rest of the fans about money and all that because there is enough on the table for us to eat,” Joshua told CBS Sports. “That’s not priority. My priority is getting into the ring and fighting for this unified heavyweight championship. That’s why I don’t really talk too much about the negotiations and the breakdowns because ultimately all anyone cares about is the fight and who is going to win.
“They don’t want to watch us negotiate in the ring, they want to watch us go to war, and that’s what I stand for.”
Hearn, who calls Joshua-Wilder “probably the biggest fight in world boxing,” claims his most recent offer to Wilder about pushing the fight off to April 13 in London still stands, including Wilder’s guaranteed purse and all the main points. Joshua agrees that Wilder is the only name in his plans for April.
“On my end we sealed the deal, so honestly all it needs now is one more signature,” Joshua said.
Ultimately, that’s where Wilder and many U.S. boxing fans have a major problem. From their perspective, Hearn and Joshua never wanted the Wilder fight in 2018 but were simply not forthcoming in their overall plan.
“I would’ve respected him as a champion and as a person [if Joshua said,] ‘Look, we are just not interested right now. We don’t want to fight,'” Wilder said. “That’s all that we were looking for and we wouldn’t have done the things that we were doing. We were serious about the fight the whole way through and that’s the most frustrating part about it.
“When people just play around with you, I tell them that boxing is an emotional sport. People just play around with your feelings. When the biggest fight in boxing can’t get made, people get made. What do we have to lie about? What do we have to lie about?”
Wilder, who understood his lack of leverage as the B-side in the proposed fight and said he was purposely willing to take short money just to make it happen, had one of his most emotional reactions once it became clear in late June the Joshua fight was not happening when he joined Showtime’s “Below the Belt.” Speaking with host Brendan Schaub, Wilder declared he was so angry he would only take the fight in April if Joshua would agree to a 50/50 financial split.
The demand was something Hearn could only laugh about when asked on Tuesday, saying, “Yeah, he most certainly wont.” Joshua took the discussion even further.
“You don’t get what you deserve in business, you get what you negotiate,” Joshua said. “[Wilder] doesn’t deserve 50/50, but if he negotiates a good enough deal, he may get 50/50. That’s what I would expect from my management team. But if you’re going to call that shot, unfortunately you need to know the difference between reality and fantasy. In the fantasy world, 50/50 would be great but in reality that’s not how boxing works.”
Hearn was quick to pull the sword of reiterating Joshua’s value, which includes fighting in front of 90,000 spectators against Wladimir Klitschko in London — the exact crowd expected when he faces Povetkin — and a boxing indoor record of over 78,000 against Carlos Takam in Wales. Hearn also opened Tuesday’s news conference by cracking a joke on camera, saying the media gathered for DAZN made for a larger crowd than the one who watched Wilder in his last bout.
“Anthony Joshua’s profile is going to continue to grow and Wilder’s is not, so I feel like we’re quite generous offering the same terms for the April fight,” Hearn said. “Let’s not get into that now. They’ve got the contract, they can come back on the points. If they sign it, the fight is on but 50/50 is certainly not happening.
“I like Deontay Wilder. They are both really good for the sport. I just wish Wilder was bigger over here. He deserves to be bigger. He’s a great fighter, he talks great and he’s entertaining, but no one knows who he is and he’s the world heavyweight champion. You shouldn’t be able to walk down any street in America without being recognized.”
In case you’re wondering, Hearn isn’t worried if his actions or words tend to be misconstrued, questioned or flat out called a lie. It’s a particularly fruitful time to be Eddie Hearn and the brash, slick and smooth-talking mouthpiece who grew up in the business of event promotion and is ready to take on all comers.
“I always think that when you’ve got enemies and you’ve got haters that you’ve got to be doing something right, so bring them on,” he said.