It’s unfathomable that Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren haven’t properly met, yet it’s a detail that both British promoters cling onto with increasing commitment.
“I’ve never spoken to him in my life. Remarkable,” Hearn told Sky Sports earlier this year. “The only one time, it’s quite a funny story actually, I came out of a meeting with Sky, with Adam Smith and I think it was Barney Francis. We’d just done a new Sky deal. And I turned left out of the restaurant, and I was walking down the road. I had my briefcase and was obviously quite happy, and I was going, ‘Hum de dum de dum.’
“As I’ve looked up in front of me, 10 yards in front is Frank outside a restaurant on the phone. And it was one of those really awkward moments where it was like, do we shake hands? He looked at me, I looked at him, and I went, [winks] ‘Alright Frank.’ And that was it, and walked off. And that’s like the only time we spoke.”
It’s the sort of anecdote you’d expect from Hearn. It doesn’t require the wildest of imaginations to picture Eddie offering an Artful Dodger-style wink to a bemused Frank in a clash of personality and generation.
The 41-year-old promoter has taken the reins of British boxing over the past decade and rarely shows any reluctance to take a swipe at his domestic rival. Warren, 68, is playing second-fiddle following hugely successful years on top, and this week has revealed the first signs of conceding this position.
“Forget the past,” Warren’s press release on Tuesday read. “Don’t focus on the difficulties and let’s get on and make the fights people want to see. When it comes time to make Fury vs AJ, everyone involved will have to cooperate anyway, so I see no reason why we can’t make these fights now.”
After years of reluctance, Warren is offering an outstretched hand over one of boxing’s tallest walls. Queensberry Promotions have returned with three shows since the restart, but are now struggling to swim against the waves caused by Matchroom’s booming Fight Camp success.
Queensberry are suggesting a cross-promotion, with contests made up from both stables and a split in coverage between the Sky and BT platforms. Daniel Dubois vs Dillian Whyte, Anthony Yarde vs Joshua Buatsi, and Joe Joyce vs Derek Chisora are some of the stand-out suggestions, but the importance lies in the willingness to do business, rather than the unlikely stack of fights listed.
The real motive behind Tuesday’s move is up for debate, but it’s a gesture that should be received by Hearn and Matchroom Boxing with the best intentions.
“Forget about promoter pride and egos, it’s not about us,” Warren’s press release continued. “This is the time to turbo-charge boxing right back into the mainstream and capture the imagination of the watching public.”
The entertainment industry has been crippled over the past few months, with no immediate signs of a sudden change to social distancing policy. Even when fans will be allowed to attend fights, we seem a long way away from the arena-filling numbers that provide promoters with that all-important gate revenue to create worthwhile purses for fighters.
Both companies, Matchroom Boxing and Queensberry Promotions, will struggle to make worthwhile fights until crowds are permitted, with the joining of forces as good a time as any.
“I gave him a buzz and just said, ‘Listen, once we get Fight Camp out the way, we’ll have a chat,’” Hearn told iFL TV. “Don’t mind, no problem having a bite to eat with him. Lots to discuss, lots of issues to get out the way, we’re a million miles away from making any fights, but no problem in having a bit of grub and discussing it. So we’ll see what happens in September.”
Frank Warren agreed, telling Boxing Social that the time is now. “There’s so much uncertainty over where we are going to be over the next few months. They’ve locked down Manchester, they’ve locked down Aberdeen, and I’m quite conscious of that. We need to get some of these big fights done. Obviously, he’s blowing the trumpet for his guys, I’m blowing the trumpet for mine, and I thought, let’s do something that works for the fans. That’s what we care about, the fans.
“The world is in trouble. Everywhere you look, there’s trouble. We’re not in trouble. We can carry on as we are. We’ve agreed to meet, so let’s have some positivity about this.”
Our sport is unique in the loyalties that some fans entertain. Our concerns should lay with the fighters and the health of boxing, not taking sides in political point-scoring between promotional companies. We may still be miles away from any form of agreement, but yesterday’s phone call between two men that claim never to have met may have set the ball rolling in the right direction.
British boxing needs Hearn and Warren to put their egos aside and come together for the good of the sport. And the time is now.