Boxing action is slowly getting added to calendars, but there’s still a vacuum that needs to be filled, because we are not back to normal with live fight promotions.
And here’s an event that could be made, if powers that be decided to pull the trigger on it, that would be a pay-per-view winner.
Promoter Eddie Hearn, the 41-year-old Brit, son of English fight game fixture Barry Hearn, versus MMA mover and shaker Dana White, age 49, the head of UFC. The smooth smirker versus the combustible ranter who also possesses a lofty charm arsenal when he desires to dispense it.
Dana White and Eddie Hearn are the two biggest names today when it comes to promoting combat sports. Both have never been at a loss for words but if push came to shove and they stepped into the boxing ring themselves, who would come out on top?
Bovada, a leading online sportsbook, released odds on the hypothetical matchup and the Englishman has been deemed the early favorite, with Hearn at -130 and White at -110.
I like Hearn in this fantasy fight, and yessir, I’d pay handsomely to watch the spectacle. Hearn is a big lad, who seems to stay more well fit than White, who spends too much time at gambling tables.
Eddie had at least one amateur fight, while White has maintained that he fought in “smokers,” though that’s not been verified, to my knowledge.
Hearn, tasked with putting together the programming that would make DAZN a sports version of Netflix, has spoken on his time in a ring. The father and the son had a pretty classic dick-measuring contest playing out as Eddie grew up, to the point that a Barry vs Eddie in-ring tango was out on the to-do list, according to a 2016 Guardian piece.
“It was due to happen when I was 18,” Eddie remembered in the Donald McRae story. “But it happened at 16 because I got so big. He came out, his teeth gritted. He was really going for it.”
“I wanted to find out what you were like,” Barry said to the journo, in the presence of Eddie. “I hit him with a proper shot. It was great because he came back and dropped me twice in the second round. It was the best defeat I ever had. That competitiveness is how we run our business.”
More specifics: Ed said his “first” fight took place but he was thrown off because the ring emcee announced him as “Eddie Hills.” That was because, his dad said, he told the guy to use a fake last name, so the crowd wouldn’t know it was Barry’s boy.
“I had some skills, I fancied myself a bit, I thought I was Sugar Ray Leonard, but you can’t be a fighter if you grow up in a nice house and go to public school,” Eddie related to Boxing Social in a 2017 story.
“The other lads were much tougher than me. I remember seeing one of my opponents in the changing room before we boxed and telling my dad: ‘Great, I’ve got the fat kid.’ But he almost took my head off.”
Points to Hearn for not just sharing the good parts of the short chapter in his life. At age 15, a kid maybe 18 or 19 gave him a whupping in sparring and it hit home — this sport is more savage than sweet, for those taking the blows.
We over here wax poetic, gussy up the combat and adorn it to make it more palatable, by painting a scene which underplays the physical toll of trading strikes. That’s why a Hearn vs. White bout would resonate, and do good business, and in fact be useful exercise for both men. It’s good to now and then, when you are the boss, to be reminded of what it’s like to leave the office suite, and work the line at the factory.
And what would White bring to the table? My guess is better bark than bite. Hearn is 40, he turns 41 on June 8, and while he’s gained that coronavirus 15 that many quarantiners have, it looks to me like he treats his body better than White does.
Dana is 50, turns 51 on July 28, and he has said he’s dealt with the effects of Ménière’s disease. That’s a disorder of the inner ear which can make you feel like you are losing your balance. Exactly how and why one gets Ménière’s is a mystery, it could be a combo of genetic and environmental contributions. White, though, told Joe Rogan in 2017 he knows exactly how he got it.
“When I was 21 years old, I lived in Boston and I got jumped one night at this bar. And these dudes beat the living shit out me for a good 20 minutes until the police came,” he said. ”At one point, I remember I was on one knee and this fucking guy must have punched me in this ear a thousand times. I was getting kicked and hit from all kinds of directions. The guys were from Charlestown, I’m lucky I didn’t get stabbed. I’m lucky I just got the shit beat out of me.”
He said he heard ringing in his left ear for months, and “later in life it eventually turned into Ménière’s.” He said when it’s bad, it can put him down for “8 or 9 nine hours.” He told Rogan a surgery went awry, and he lost his hearing pretty severely after that visit to the doc.
All that is to say, White probably wouldn’t react well to a Hearn hook. Though, being that a gang from Charlestown pummeled him for 20 minutes, and he didn’t die, his toughness level must really be on another plane.
It’s hard to truly know, because the lack of specificity regarding White’s actual experience training or fighting is beyond thin. No video exists.
It’s been said that he got some tutoring from Peter Welch, a former New England Golden Gloves champion who went 5-0 as a pro. He took some amateur bouts, he told others, and according to a 2009 Jeff Wagenheim story that ran on ESPN.com, White was training for a Golden Gloves event when he injured his elbow and busted up his nose. “So I started helping train other fighters,” White said, “and found that I liked it.”
A Rolling Stone feature on White from 2008 did a swell job laying a brick of his mystique wall.
“White’s own destiny came to him courtesy of Whitey Bulger’s Irish mob,” readers were told. “This was back in 1995, in the hard-knocks Southie part of Boston. White was 25 and an avid amateur boxer. He’d dropped out of UMass Boston, spent some time as a bouncer, a paving-company laborer and a bellhop at the fancy downtown Boston Harbor Hotel. Then one day he quit the hotel job and started a youth-boxing program in Southie, to get kids off the street, and for a while thought about becoming a professional boxer.”
OK, now his involvement is “avid.”
The tale continued: “All I cared about was boxing,” White said. “Then I saw this professional boxer in the gym, he was in his 30s, and he was all punchy, and I thought to myself, `Holy shit, you don’t ever want to be like that.’ And to be a fighter, that kind of thought can’t ever enter your mind. It’s one of the things I respect about them, how they think. And when I saw that guy in the gym, I realized I was never going to be like that.”
Writer Erik Hedegaard got White’s greatest hits, and then some. A threat from the Whitey Bulger crew, who were apparently shaking down boxercise classes, sent him from Boston to Vegas.
Also, “he’d beat the crap out of a guy for touching his girl’s ass at a bar, got sued, lost, was fined $17,000, refused to pay it, was arrested, had his paycheck attached.” And here’s one I hadn’t recalled, or heard about since: White got shot at by Mexican gangbangers, according to Rolling Stone.
Sounds like it should be a movie — but can he fight? Do any persons in the 90s recall fighting White, on an amateur show, a sanctioned one, or even a basement smoker? We’d love to get their scouting report.
We understand, memories can be hazy, time passes and brain cells get lost, names we once knew are not at the tip of our tongue. They may be lost. White gave the writer a hint about how he viewed his station, what one of the major keys to building a brand is.
“Everybody wants more money, and they want it now. And then all these fighters are like, ‘We’re the superstars, not the UFC! It should all be about us,’” he said, back in ‘08, ranting about how the laborers are such pests, asking for more money all the time. “You dumb motherfuckers. You don’t know what you’re fucking with. I’m a promoter. And a lot of this shit is built with smoke and mirrors.”
It maybe would have been nice to cut through the smoke, if the 2007 sparring match between White and Tito Ortiz came off. The square-off, which would have screened on cable, after a tight edit, didn’t happen because, supposedly, Ortiz’s gal-pal Jenna Jameson gave an 11th hour thumbs down.
“They were trying to intimidate me,” White recalled, “but I used to punch that monkey around when we used to spar.” And if video of that exists, wouldn’t it make a splash even today on YouTube?
Years pass, and White manages to bring stories out of the vault.
“So I just started blasting him in the ribs, started punching him in the ribs and when he let go [I] just jumped up and it was just a full blown fist fight in the plane,” White shared in 2017, of his mile high club rumble with Ortiz on a jet.
The man has a talent for pot stirring, and crafting a persona. For awhile now, he’s reminded me of another “pot stirrer.”
“Me and my wife went to the White House and had dinner with him, three-and-a-half hours in the residence, having dinner, toured us through the whole place,” White told the Boston Globe last year. “I’ve been in the White House three or four times now, it’s been an amazing experience. He is the most solid guy you’ll ever meet. He gives you his word and it’s gold, I’m telling you, it’s unbelievable.”
That it is.
Back to the dream fight. Pretty clearly, I like Hearn to use that length to bust up White. But time to traffic in reality. There would have to be a second wave of the pandemic and both dudes would have to be pretty bored for this to happen. But it should. One, we’d get to see if White’s skills matches the mystique tower he’s erected for himself. And two, never bad for the bosses to see how hard it is to do the work that others perform which makes them rich.
—Woods is a Brooklyn, NY resident who writes, and also does blow by blow for the Facebook Fightnight Live series. Follow him on Twitter if you like.