Half-full leisure centres and s**t fights – Hearn discusses boxing’s health

During his time as a top boxing promoter, looking after some of the UK scene’s most well-known names, Barry Hearn presided over the constant twists and turns of the sport as it evolved towards what we currently enjoy – or despair of, considering your individual viewpoint. Barry’s son Eddie is now busy building up a respectable stable of talent across the Irish Sea, many of whom will see action on May 5 in the King’s Hall. Hearn openly discussed the nature of the beast when it comes to negotiating big fights in the existing climate and revealed the many factors that are shaping boxing’s present and future health.

“Boxing is not rating well in the UK and that’s the bottom line,” Eddie stated. “Any aspiring viewer or fight fan is turning on and seeing half-full leisure centres and shit fights, which appeals to nobody.

“Paul (McCloskey) will potentially have to travel for a world title shot and he’s willing to do that. We would happily go to Las Vegas for a big fight. We were willing to take a risk to bring a world title shot here, by selling out the Odyssey and getting a whack from Sky. Look at the fight market in Germany and the recent Klitschko vs. Mormeck fight for example where they packed the place out and the Germans all left with a smile on their face with great ratings. All of the hardcore boxing fans know that it was a load of bollocks but the casual would have turned the TV on, seen all that going on, and thought ‘wow!’

“Prizefighter is a gimmick but it’s also a great concept that gives these boys [assembled fighters] an unbelievable opportunity to catapult into a title fight. But it also means that the casual fan turns it on and thinks, ‘this is unbelievable, eight fighters, seven fights, double your money and winner stays on’. It’s three-three minute rounds of hammer-and-tongs at each other, all night and we know what we’re going to get from these guys [the all-Ireland cast], they will all go for it on the night.”

Several opponents were mooted and rumoured for Paul McCloskey before Julio Diaz was finally settled on for the Dungiven star. Even ex-footballer Curtis Woodhouse’s name was mentioned and while Curtis may not be a stellar fighter, lacking any pedigree due to his late arrival in to the fistic art, I believe that he would have at least entered the ring all guns blazing and had a good go at the Irishman regardless of the end result.

“We probably tried close to 60 opponents and with regards to Curtis Woodhouse we just wanted someone to come over and fight, not someone who would look to hide in a shell for 12 rounds and it would’ve been Woodhouse’s ultimate world title fight,” agreed Hearn.

“The Breidis Prescott fight was a night worthy of being a world title fight but we will be doing everything we can to secure a world title shot and that is the ultimate goal. What options does Maidana have now? Katsidis opted to stay at lightweight, which would’ve been a great fight.”

Paul will be getting valuable TV exposure for this latest assignment and an impressive performance could send a message to fans and networks around the world that the southpaw stylist can be a serious player at world level, even in the talent-laden light-welterweight division.

“This will be shown in America on a Fox channel and in Canada. The Khan fight wasn’t even on Sky and wasn’t seen by enough people,” bemoaned Eddie, who has been a strong critic of Team Khan’s organisational skills both in and around the big fights.
The English promoter also places little credence in an undefeated slate and reckons that if you can fight a bit then the chances to participate in big fights will eventually come knocking, as the cream rises to the top.

“An 0 means less and less in today’s boxing,” reckoned Eddie. “Too many people hide behind an unbeaten record when they actually aren’t that good and the moment they are put in a meaningful fight then they will lose. So if you aren’t any good then why waste your time? At least put yourself into a tough fight and find out how good you are.”

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