Eddie Hearn has agreed a “game-changing” deal with the streaming service Dazn which will give his promotional company Matchroom “the firepower to change the face of boxing in the UK”.
Hearn said his fighters will benefit from the guaranteed income and be offered greater opportunities in this country, the US globally without having to rely on the riskier pay-per-view model which has alienated so many boxing fans.
Two weeks ago Hearn endured crushing disappointment when his six months of hard work in trying to arrange the most lucrative fight in boxing history, between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world, came crashing down a day after he seemed to have cleared all remaining obstacles. But a US court ruled that Fury has to face Deontay Wilder, instead of Joshua, next month. The fallout has been bitter.
Confirmation of his five-year partnership with Dazn meant the promoter was in an ebullient mood. He said “the artillery” Dazn has given him will elevate the quality of “the fights we’re making, the value we’re giving to fans and subscribers and, also, it’s a chance for us to expand globally”.
The promoter already has a deal with Dazn in America but he declined to reveal the size of the new UK contract. “In the US no one knew who we were,” he said. “So we had to make a big splash. Over here we don’t need to be so vocal. But to prise us away from Sky it had to be a seismic deal.”
Asked how Sky had reacted to the news, as they have worked with Matchroom for 25 years, Hearn said: “When they understood the actual deal I feel they had to shake my hand and say: ‘Good luck to you, son.’ It was too big an opportunity to make these big fights and to expand globally at such a rate. So they were very disappointed but we have a longstanding relationship with them that will continue in a multi-sport remit.”
Hearn and most of his fighters will no longer rely on a pay-per-view model which has meant fans often had to shell out £19.95, on top of their Sky subscription, to watch additional bouts. In Hearn’s view, Joshua is the only obvious pay-per-view fighter in the country and his other boxers will now fight on ordinary programming on Dazn, whose subscription rate is £1.99 a month.
“AJ sits outside this deal,” Hearn confirmed. “He has one fight remaining with Sky Sports. There will be an announcement in due course about AJ’s relationship with Matchroom and I know that relationship will finish when AJ hangs up his gloves. He’s the biggest star in British and, potentially, world boxing. I’m sure Dazn would love to welcome him to their platform. But he has a great relationship with Sky and they will be keen to extend it.”
Hearn insisted there would be no conflict of interest if he promotes Joshua’s pay-per-view fights on Sky. “Absolutely not. The deal with Dazn doesn’t include AJ. So it will be a decision that is based on Anthony’s best interests.”
Joshua is expected to defend his WBO title against the mandatory challenger, Oleksandr Usyk, while Fury faces the erratic but big-punching Wilder. “It’s a very dangerous fight,” Hearn said of Fury’s bout with Wilder, “even if I still see Tyson as a huge favourite. AJ against Usyk is very tough as well. So all undisputed plans are on ice because we don’t trust a word that lot [Fury’s camp] say. But there is no room for slip-ups.” He suggested that “conversations are positive” with Usyk’s camp as they aim to confirm a fight in late summer. “We haven’t reached a deal yet, but we’re hopeful.”
Returning to his new contract Hearn said: “The strategy for Matchroom is to be the global powerhouse of boxing, and the strategy for Dazn is to be the unrivalled home of global boxing. We will do a minimum of 16 shows in the UK. We’ll probably do nine or 10 in the US this year. We have four shows in Italy, four in Spain. We have two new territories we will announce in due course. Our strategy is to have a show a week in different major cities all over the world.”
He paused as Joe Markowski from Dazn was listening in. Markowski, after refusing politely to confirm that Dazn has a rumoured 8 million global subscribers, said: “We’re excited by our global growth and our numbers reflect that – not that we’re going to talk about that publicly.”
Hearn chipped in. “I wish they would. I always say to Joe we should – particularly after the Canelo Álvarez-Billy Joe Saunders fight [a Hearn and Dazn promotion in front of record crowd of 73,000 in Texas last month]. But I have to keep my mouth quiet in this new corporate role.”
Markowski responded dryly. “Keeping Eddie on brief … one of life’s big challenges.”