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Eddie Hearn: 'I can't say I don't enjoy the limelight'

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is one of the sport’s most colourful characters and his big-money fights have become world events. But there’s one battle he’ll never win – trying to outsmart his father Barry

‘The only way you can achieve greatness is to be a perfectionist in everything you do’: Eddie Hearn. Photograph: Dean Chalkley/The Observer

The boxing promoter Eddie Hearn is telling the world what it wants to hear, live on national television. It is early on a Monday morning. Hearn is in the Hearn family offices, a converted pile outside Brentwood, rural Essex, that was once the Hearn family home, pre-conversion.

“Look,” he says.

He is talking directly to camera, speaking live to a news anchor down the line.

“Everybody knows this is a monstrous fight. It makes perfect sense. How could it not make perfect sense?”

It is 24 hours after Tyson Fury boxed Deontay Wilder in a big-money Las Vegas brawl. Fury won, convincingly. Now the news channels are asking about the heavyweight division’s other premium fighter, Anthony Joshua, who happens to be Hearn’s marquee client. Will Joshua fight Fury now? Can Hearn make it happen?

“Let’s have it right,” Hearn says.

Here he is, a salesman in his element, a heavyweight chatterbox dangling a deal.

“We have an opportunity to make an event,” he says. “Not just the biggest event in British boxing history, but one of the biggest sporting events” – pause – “of all time.”

Hearn is not a man to tone down the hyperbole. Nor does he turn down the opportunity to talk. “I’ll do every interview in the line,” he says, of his commitment to promotion, “and I’ll get to the end and it’s some geezer from… ‘Frank’s Boxing Hour’?” He doesn’t have it in him to turn requests down, he says, even when the requests come from amateur YouTubers. But, you know, all publicity is good publicity. After big fights, news channels clamour for Hearn’s take, not just because he is a grade-A gabber – which he is, a truly exceptional gabber – but because his interviews get traction, particularly when they’re chopped up and shared across social media.

Almost a million people follow Hearn on Twitter, where he delivers lines with the charm and swagger of a star performer. Some 350,000 people follow an Eddie Hearn fan account that reduces his soundbites to memes. Thanks in part to his social media persona – performative, nearly always delighted at something, game for a laugh – but also to the recent resurgence of the heavyweight division as a popular spectacle, Hearn has shot comet-like over the threshold of boxing and into the public consciousness, and established himself as one of the loudest voices in sports. These days, he turns up, almost miraculously, everywhere: on the news, at weigh-ins, on a talkshow, at press conferences, on your partner’s Instagram feed (telling jokes, from quarantine). He can come across as a combination of businessman and comedian – a mostly serious man with a side-hustle in laughs. His company, Matchroom Boxing, promotes more than 90 boxers, including several world champions. But of late it has seemed as though Hearn has become more famous than most of his clients.

Hearn refers to himself as “a travelling salesman” – his schedule, these days, is not carbon efficient – though really he’d like to be remembered for being an outstanding man of business. Some people see him like that. Others think of him as a kind of Essex wide boy, a chancer, ready to pull the wool over your eyes.

The latter take is simplistic. Hearn has sold out events at Wembley and Madison Square Garden. He was the first promoter to make a $1bn streaming deal, with the on-demand service DAZN, and the only boxing promoter to have organised a big-money event in the Middle East (still controversial). He excels at twisting negotiations to benefit the boxers he promotes, particularly their wallets, and subsequently his own, and he is expert at conjuring stories to pitch fights to audiences, especially to those who are only casually interested in boxing. “I love to sell,” he says. “I love to make money. But it’s not just about that. It’s about the achievement of making a breakthrough.”

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