Hearn believes 2021 can be a big year for British boxing despite the challenges facing the sport
Ongoing contractual negotiations for a blockbuster fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for the undisputed heavyweight title – likely abroad in early summer – plus five other major cards with world titles on the bill were the theme of an address made by promoter Eddie Hearn on Friday.
It came after the British Boxing Board of Control lifted the prohibition of boxing after the latest national lockdown for six weeks from the start of the year. A location for the upcoming events is yet to be finalised, but Wembley Arena, according to Hearn, looks to be the front runner.
As for Joshua-Fury talks, Hearn revealed they are “progressing, going well” and that “the contract and deal will be closed in the next four weeks” with the two fighters having agreed to a 50:50 financial split. The promoter also disclosed that up to ten countries had expressed an interest in staging the event, hinting that four Middle Eastern countries were “aggressive front runners”.
“With a fight of this magnitude, no one is looking to be obstructive [fighter teams and four vying broadcasters].” added Hearn, having exclusively told Telegraph Sport in December that both Fury and Joshua could earn £100 million each for the ‘Heavyweight Battle of Britain.”
2021 could be a huge year for boxing, in spite of the the Covid-19 pandemic and no crowds, if the protagonists and their teams get this mammoth event over the line. Hearn believes boxing’s thrust through lockdown and beyond has been a successful one, one of thriving and surviving.
“The business of boxing is very difficult because we are running shows without gates and the revenue has decreased. Some fighters have flourished and others have been unwilling to move on numbers and have stood still,” explained the Matchroom Boxing chief.
“I think everyone has had a go – us, Bob Arum, Frank Warren. No one has sat back and said ‘we just can’t do it’. People have taken their losses on the chin and come up with new ways to make compelling content. AJ [Joshua] vs [Kubrat] Pulev [Dec 12] was fantastic, even with just 1000 people there. I felt like we were on the right track there but we have gone ten steps backwards but we have no choice.”
He added: “We have never really come out in January and released five straight shows but I feel we need to keep the story going and hopefully to leads to AJ vs Fury getting announced in two, three, four weeks and people can say ‘boxing is flying’.”
However, he warned, realistically: “The vaccine is the only way out and we won’t return to normality until that process is deep underway or finished and I guess that won’t happen until the summer at the earliest.
As for the upcoming series, the intriguing rematch between Alexander Povetkin and Dillian Whyte for the WBC’s interim heavyweight title may yet go abroad, and will be aired live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and on DAZN in all other markets excluding the UK and Ireland.
“We’re looking to stage all of these next five events in one location, with perhaps only the Dillian Whyte fight going international. At the moment that’s an option but we haven’t made any decisions yet,” explained Hearn on Friday.
“Previously we’ve been to Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Wembley, we could go anywhere really. I think the general feel for the board is that the medical support in London is best for the fighters in terms of the specific units so the board would be happy at the moment for us to stay in London. We will be working on venues over the next few days then we will put it to the board and make a decision together.
“The board are definitely set on it but what we have learned over the last year is anything can happen at any time. You would hope the infection rate is coming down but we still have another four weeks. Anything is possible but right now I feel everyone is committed to the return of boxing in February. And I don’t think we have any choice, if the sport is going to survive.”