Promotion and Paranoia in the fast lane

By Ben Thomsett on February 14, 2019
Promotion and Paranoia in the fast lane
Theirs are empires built on smiles and hoodwinks. (Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The promoter takes the sport and lifts it high into respectability, hiding the violent and often grim truths of boxing in plain sight…

No one likes the flashy guy. Isn’t that the rule of the playground/bar/factory/boardroom? The machismo associated with the power suit, the puffed out chest, the arrogance, and the desire to grind all others into the ground underneath the heel of a pointy Italian shoe, is old-fashioned and dumb. Capeesh?

In a violent and tough sport like boxing, which celebrates the most male of traits—strength, toughness, fitness, bloodiness—the man in the suit, the promoter, is just a by-product of the incoming cash. Maligned by many, he/she is always on the back foot, thinking and plotting and fending off the criticism from some of sport’s most vocal fans. To be both flashy and a boxing promoter is a hiding to nothing; a secret just one whisper away from becoming front page news. Theirs are empires built on smiles and hoodwinks. Confidence and blame. Ultimate brinkmanship. Unwavering self-belief.

The boxing promoter. Tender of the candle. The brains behind the operation. Without them boxing would be consigned to three-round Olympic/amateur displays, and the late night alleyways behind bars all across whatever land you live in. The promoter takes the sport and lifts it high into respectability, hiding the violent and often grim truths of boxing in plain sight. Selling tickets to anyone who wants to sit at the squared altar and stoke their own inner withered and spluttering testosterone fire. The promoter affords a living to the boxer, and rewards them with limitless riches if they manage to rise above their peers…with only a small slice off of the top. Bentleys don’t buy themselves. Promoting is no easy task.

Eddie Hearn has worked his heart out at boxing promoting. His Matchroom empire has grown from offices in Romford, Essex, to multiplying his staff by a factor of six and setting up shop in the USA. His DAZN contract was a masterstroke. Matchroom and the Hearn brand have arrived on the world stage. But he isn’t finding it easy, especially managing the path of the WBO/IBF/WBA Heavyweight champ. Some people say that you would have to be permanently drunk, and locked in a room without natural light and access to things like telephones or secretaries, to screw up that promotion. But under those kinds of pressures even the best can become a paranoid wreck.

“There has been an element of us and them,” Eddie said yesterday. “It seems like the industry wants Joshua to fail.

“I know promoters and networks are talking to one another to try and stop fights from happening. This is the politics of boxing, it’s not new,” he added.

He was, of course, referring to the triumvirate of Wilder, Fury, and Joshua, and the seemingly impossible task of getting Joshua into a ring with either of the other two. Is the industry conspiring against Matchroom and the champ? Does it make financial sense for Finkel and Warren to act together? Or are those the thoughts of a man embarrassed by the prospect of empty seats in Madison Square Garden on June 1st, wondering how long it’ll take on fight night before Shelly Finkel’s name appears on his phone screen and he launches it into the Hudson?

All we do know is that in the autumn of 2018, Joshua tweeted a poll asking who the public wanted to see him fight next: Wilder, Fury, or Whyte. Wilder won, and the PR machine cranked into gear. 80,000 people were going to tear Wembley stadium down and shout their hero’s name into the London night again. Like him, they couldn’t lose. They were whipped into a frenzy like a herd of hungry goats on a Romford hillside. They bought the flash promises and the confident stares beaming out of the TV…from a promoter.

Now, here we are. In New York. With “Big Baby” Miller, and bad smell of macho bluster.

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  1. tetumbo 12:51pm, 02/19/2019

    Strange that Hearn is just becoming familiar with the serious fight fan’s desire to pay for and watch the best possible match-ups and not give any more of a damn about his fighter’s bank account than he does about the average fight fan’s income and savings. He’ll never make it the U.S. boxing mecca of Cali where even the fighter’s agree that giving fight-fans what they want is the best way to ensuring their own prosperity.

  2. fan 08:46am, 02/15/2019

    We should have a boxing association that is main concern is boxers, boxing match up and boxing event.

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