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‘We’ve got to stop worrying about protecting great fighters’: Eddie Hearn on boxing matchmaking and criticism after Katie Taylor’s loss to Chantelle Cameron

Amid more criticism of a top Matchroom star losing, Eddie Hearn says he has no regrets about making tough fights.

Eddie Hearn has no regrets about Taylor vs Cameron and making great fights
Eddie Hearn has no regrets about Taylor vs Cameron and making great fights
Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Amid more criticism of a top Matchroom star losing following Katie Taylor’s loss to Chantelle Cameron on Saturday, promoter Eddie Hearn says he has no regrets about making tough fights.

Hearn discussed that and much more in an interview with Ariel Helwani today on The MMA Hour.

“I go back to things like AJ and Canelo — I don’t have to say, ‘Hey, Saul, I really think it’s a bad idea, mate, for you to fight Dmitry Bivol again.’ It’s up to you. That’s why you’ve got a training team and management. I love it because you’re an underdog,” he said.

“Katie Taylor will be an underdog in the rematch for the first time in her career. Great! We’ve got to stop worrying about protecting great fighters. Let them try and be great. If they fall and get beat, write another chapter. I said to her, ‘Imagine you come back now and win this rematch. It would be one of the greatest moments.’ It would certainly be the greatest moment of her career, with everything she’s achieved.

“That’s how you’ve got to look at things. You can’t mope around. You’ve got to use that to drive you, and the excitement of another chapter in the story.”

More from the interview:

On Katie Taylor and Gary Cully losing in Dublin

“I just think the hypocrisy of boxing is unbelievable. It’s, like, everybody moans that the fights aren’t tough enough, that the challenges aren’t big enough, and then when a fighter gets beat, it’s, like, ‘Awww! She shouldn’t really have taken that fight!’ It’s like when AJ boxed Usyk. Probably, if you want to keep him safe, if you want to avoid dangerous fights, he should have vacated the belt.

“If you’re in this sport for legacy, if you’re a competitor, this is just what happens. The amount of people today that have said to me — and Conor was one of them after the fight — ‘Why’d you put Gary Cully in with that guy?’ It’s, like, that guy’s lost three out of the last four. He lost to Tyrone McKenna, he lost to Sandor Martin. If you are a world class fighter, you beat Jose Felix. Yes, it’s dangerous, he’s a bit of a puncher — so what? What are you gonna do, never fight a puncher?

“And for Katie Taylor, you are the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. So, yes, she believed she could beat Chantelle Cameron. But we got an unbelievable fight. It wouldn’t have been the same week if it was Katie Taylor against, you know, if she was 100-to-1 on to win against someone you never heard of. We’re lucky to have people like Katie Taylor.

“I think the week itself was incredible because of the feeling and welcome from fight fans who are passionate about the sport who have been starved of boxing there for seven years. As a promoter, the one thing I want more than anything is for people to leave the arena and remember the night forever with a smile on their face. I know there’s the disappointment of her losing, but I promise you, all 9,000 that were in that arena will never forget that night.

“You win, you lose. That’s sport. We shouldn’t be afraid to lose. Now we move on. People say, straight away as always, ‘That’s the end for Irish boxing.’ Well, hang a minute — we’re going to do the rematch, probably in October or November, and we’re going to do another massive night. But if you don’t win, you don’t win! Sport. You can’t protect yourself and just keep winning. Then we get criticized either way.

“I loved the week, I loved the night. I’m delighted for Chantelle Cameron, she boxed fantastic and a new star is born for women’s boxing. And Katie Taylor probably won’t sleep properly until she gets in the ring to avenge that defeat.”

On having any regrets about making Taylor vs Cameron

“No, because ultimately, for a star of (Taylor’s) level, I would never even choose the fight, or I would never tell a fighter to take or not take a fight. When the Serrano fight fell through, Katie was adamant that she would fight Chantelle Cameron and have her homecoming.

“Once she calls it out on social media, there is no way I go to Katie Taylor and say, ‘Katie, just thinking about this, I think this is quite a tough fight! Why don’t we have an easier fight?’ When she called it out, I got so excited. I thought, ‘Wow! What a fight!’

“I don’t want to sit there putting a show on without my heart beating through my chest. The nerves in that arena, because of how tough we knew it was, that was the first time during a ring walk the hairs were standing up on my arms. I actually felt like my eyes were welling up. ... No, I’m delighted we made the fight, because it’s the best versus the best, and that’s what sport is all about.”

On Taylor’s mood backstage after the fight

“She was devastated. When I saw her in the lift, I walked with her to the car, but she was sort of gobsmacked. It was quite a trippy experience, seeing her lose. When they announced Chantelle Cameron, everyone was, like, ‘My God — Katie Taylor’s lost!’

“And she was quite shocked with it. I said, ‘How ya feeling?’ She went, ‘Absolutely, feel like —,’ you know. I said, ‘Listen, now’s the most exciting chapter of your career,’ and she said, ‘Doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a bad dream.’ I said, ‘But you’re gonna wake up. Does it hurt?’ And she said, ‘So bad,’ and I said, ‘Great, that’s all we need to know. The moment it doesn’t hurt, then it’s time to hang up the gloves. If it hurts, if it eats you up every day — you’ve got to live off this pain now until the next fight. It’s got to eat you up every single day of your life.’ And she said, ‘We’ll win this rematch,’ and I said, ‘That’s what I want to hear.’

“Every day, as I said, it’s going to be painful. These next few days, she’s going to be the most unhappy person on the planet. She’ll smile, she’ll be wonderful around her family, she’ll continue her faith, but it will be eating her up inside like the competitor that she is. She’ll come back stronger, and the rematch will be epic. She will believe she can win the rematch on the basis of that fight.”

On Taylor moving forward for the rematch

“There’s so many similarities in this fight to Canelo against Bivol, in the sense that Canelo comes up in weight, gets beaten by the bigger man. Now everyone’s saying, ‘Don’t rematch her, you can’t beat her.’ People are talking about Bivol coming down to Canelo’s weight, which Chantelle Cameron is also saying, ‘I could do that and try and become a two-division undisputed champion.’ There’s so many similarities.

“It’s a very dangerous fight. When you’re in this position for Katie, all of a sudden, these are the amazing turns of the sport. You lose again, it could be retirement. Back-to-back defeats at this stage of your career. And that’s the same problem Canelo Alvarez has. If he loses to Dmitry Bivol again, alright, maybe he can pop back down to 168 and fight somebody, but Katie, you’ve got the Serrano fight there, but right now, the Serrano fight’s in the back of her mind. All she’s thinking about is Chantelle Cameron and revenge. Beat Chantelle Cameron, Serrano rematch, you’ve got all these other fights. Lose to Chantelle Cameron, alright, you can maybe come back down and rematch Serrano at 135, but you’re coming off two defeats.

“Now is a really key moment, and I go back to things like AJ and Canelo — I don’t have to say, ‘Hey, Saul, I really think it’s a bad idea, mate, for you to fight Dmitry Bivol again.’ It’s up to you. That’s why you’ve got a training team and management. I love it because you’re an underdog. Katie Taylor will be an underdog in the rematch for the first time in her career. Great! We’ve got to stop worrying about protecting great fighters. Let them try and be great. If they fall and get beat, write another chapter. I said to her, ‘Imagine you come back now and win this rematch. It would be one of the greatest moments.’ It would certainly be the greatest moment of her career, with everything she’s achieved. That’s how you’ve got to look at things. You can’t mope around. You’ve got to use that to drive you, and the excitement of another chapter in the story.”

On whether he thought Cameron deserved the win

“Yeah, I probably could have made an excuse for a draw, if I was being stupid. The fact that I was probably looking at it from a generous point of view, and we’re in Ireland — but if you said to me, ‘There’s only one winner of this fight,’ I have to say Chantelle Cameron. I thought she won 6-4.

“I thought Katie started terribly, she looked so tired and I couldn’t understand why. But we kept saying, Chantelle Cameron has to ignite this fight early. She ignited it in the first 30 seconds. Normally, you’d expect Katie Taylor to be 3-1 up after four, and it was the other way around. Actually, remarkably, Katie rallied really well in the middle stages of the fight and won a lot of rounds, and probably won the 10th, but she did look tired. And I think that’s something she has to address.

“But I hate, as well, we always look for ‘the reason’ rather than saying, ‘Wow, Chantelle Cameron was unbelievable.’ She got it perfectly right with the game plan, executed it well, her engine was fantastic, she threw I think more than double the amount of punches of Katie Taylor. She was incredible, and she’s just beaten the undisputed 147 lb champion and the undisputed 135 lb champion, so you have to bring her into the conversation as the number one pound-for-pound fighter.”

On the judges getting it right

“I think because most people felt Chantelle won — it’s never a fighter’s fault, whatever way the scores go, but sometimes the fighter can get the blame in their career. I’ve seen it many times. A bit like Devin (Haney). Now, for the next few months, everyone’s just going to reply to him on social media, every post, ‘Oh, you got a gift, you’re a joke, you robbed Lomachenko.’ It’s not his fault. And the reality is, sometimes it can work against a fighter.

“If Katie Taylor would have got that decision, I think she would have had a lot of criticism. It’s not her fault, but I just feel like, most people felt Chantelle Cameron won the fight. And if she hadn’t have got the decision, everyone would have said, ‘Katie’s got another close decision, it’s a joke, she lost the fight.’ That can actually affect your legacy.

On the rematch being at 140 or 135

“I think, knowing what she’s like, they’ll want it on the same terms (at 140). The problem is, when you bring someone back down to your weight, everyone’s going to say, ‘Well, they brought her down,’ you know. Maybe we do the rematch at 140, and if Katie wins, we do the rubber match at 135. I don’t know. It’s too early to say. It’s the biggest fight in female boxing right now, the rematch.

“My gut feeling is (Taylor) will want to do it at 140. Obviously she makes 135 easy. Chantelle hasn’t boxed at 135 in a long time, but I’d expect her to make that weight if she wanted to. It’s the same thing with Bivol (and Canelo), it’s a chance for Chantelle to become undisputed at 135, so that might be an attraction to her.”

“My gut feeling is 140, but we’ll talk to the teams.”

On whether Taylor could fight Amanda Serrano or Mikaela Mayer next instead

“No. All due respect to Mikaela, that’s not a fight that would interest Katie. Serrano, you know, I just can’t see it. (The loss) is going to eat her up so bad. Sorry to keep kicking on about Canelo, but it’s the same. All these fights, all these options, and (Bivol’s) the one he’s the underdog in.

“Some great fights out there for Canelo — Benavidez, but he’s the favorite in all of those. I know Benavidez is a great fighter, but (Canelo’s) still the favorite in that fight, and he’s the massive underdog against Dmitry Bivol. And the money will probably be smaller than some other fights, but it’s just in his head.

“It’s the same thing with Katie. She’ll watch the fight back, she’ll think, ‘Wow, I nearly won that fight, and I think I performed really badly for me. So I know I can beat her.’ Once she gets that in her head, it’s game over.”

On the Cameron rematch being bigger than Serrano

“For sure. Until you put that right, it’s always there, and it lingers on. She won’t allow that, to not attempt to put that right. She’s beaten Amanda Serrano. She has one defeat in her career and she will do everything to avenge that.”

On Cameron potentially demanding the rematch in England

“Contractually, there’s a lot in place, that ultimately we have to go to where the revenue is going to be generated. I think Chantelle Cameron does deserve a UK fight at some point, but you saw Saturday, compared to anything England can deliver in terms of number on the gate, atmosphere.

“But there’s certain things I think Chantelle needs to be respected for this time. This was so refreshing — who walked first, whose name was on the poster, all these things. She was the champion and Katie (the challenger), but it was never even discussed. It was just, ‘It’s Katie Taylor.’ But now it should be ‘Cameron vs Taylor,’ she should walk second. She should have all the champion’s requisites if it’s gonna be at 140, because she’s earned that now, she’s become a star in her own right.

“You still need a dance partner. Chantelle Cameron against somebody else, it’s still a big fight, because she’s a star, but it’s never gonna be as big as a fight that involves Katie Taylor, and those two together now can create the biggest fight in women’s boxing.”

On Croke Park being possible for the rematch

“Maybe. Again, it depends on timing. Really, September’s kinda the latest that you can have that fight. I think a stadium would be fun, but it was pretty good in there Saturday. Loved 3Arena. Incredible.”

On fans showing up early in Dublin

“One of the things I enjoyed the most, it was a 9,000-seat arena, at 6:30, quarter to 7, we had 7,000 people in there. The main event was at 10:30, 10:45. When I walked in at 5:15, there was, like, 1,500 or 2,000 people in there. Like, they loved it.

“It’s so rare. Really, it’s depressing in boxing, I gotta say, it’s really depressing. Even before a main event, the arena’s half-full, and you go in the bars, and they’re all in the bars. Like, come on, guys. And that’s partly boxing’s fault, maybe, but it also just shows you excitement when you go to a city that’s been starved for boxing, they come in early.

“But when you go to a big fight, like an O2, they just swarm in for the main event and you’re thinking, ‘Mate, you’ve missed so much action here.’ But that’s down to us to build the profile of the undercard and build the narrative of these fighters, so when someone buys a ticket for Taylor vs Cameron, they go, ‘Look at Carty against McFarlane, these two heavyweight lumps having a tear-up, I’m not missing that, I’m getting there at 7 o’clock.’ So we’ve got to do better, as well.”

On watching the fight next to Conor McGregor

“He’s just, like — and when Gary Cully lost, he got up and he was, like, he come right at me, ‘Why’d you put him in with him!’ I was, like, ‘Well, sorry?’ He’s, like, ‘He’s a puncher!’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘It’s his homecoming in Ireland! You should have given him a can!’ I was, like, ‘That guy’s lost three of the last, like — Gary Cully was 50-to-1 on to win that fight! He traded with his chin in the air!’

“Then I’m thinking, ‘God, please, Katie don’t lose.’ He was gutted when Katie lost. All the Irish were, but he was getting up, he was banging the canvas during the fight. But listen, he was a real gem to have involved in the promotion. Passionate, obviously from a profile point of view fantastic, loads of energy. Probably one of the most recognizable people in the world. Love him or hate him. Everybody knows.”

On whether he’s getting criticism from other promotes

“Yeah. ‘Eddie Hearn got one of his fighters beat.’ Then you put on a one-sided fight and it’s, ‘Oh, Eddie Hearn never puts his fighters in deep.’ So if you listen to that then — I want great fights! That’s what creates big numbers, ticket sales, all those things. When it’s a rubbish fight, the commercial side’s rubbish.

“And also, if you ain’t good enough, you don’t win. That’s really the situation in life, in business, in sport — if you’re not good enough, you don’t win. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you get beat! But when Canelo Alvarez phones me up and says, ‘Listen, me and Eddy Reynoso want to fight Dmitry Bivol, go get it done,’ I don’t start going, ‘Oh, hang on a minute, Saul, you sure about this?’ He’d just go, ‘Shut up, go and do your job.’ And that’s the same thing. Katie Taylor says, ‘I want Chantelle Cameron on May 20.’ No problem. I’ll go and deliver it for you. And by the way, if you’re not good enough, you lose.”

On Haney vs Lomachenko

“I didn’t watch it, I followed it on Twitter. I quite like that way, maybe it’s a little bit sick, but go to someone’s scorecards. I’ve never seen so many different scorecards. I was just refreshing stuff, and it’s, like, 4-0 Haney, and then someone else has 3-1 Lomachenko. I don’t really know what I’m watching. People are so passionate — Lomachenko’s won that easy, oh I’ve got Haney. I’ve seen highlights of the fight, but it sounds like a really close fight.

“I saw Bob Arum, who is probably the funniest person I’ve ever seen in my life. He could not care less, and I guess at 93 or whatever he is, why would you? And he goes up to the press conference and leans forward to Lomachenko — Haney’s, like, three seats down, and obviously he doesn’t realize all the mics are on and he goes, ‘You won that fight easy. What a joke.’ Loma’s like thank you and Haney’s sitting there going, ‘Nice, thanks, glad I’m a free agent.’

On Devin Haney possibly returning to Matchroom

“I think he’d like to, from a personal point of view. They’re now paying him a lot of money. It’s going to be interesting what the numbers spit out, because God, Jesus, I paid Devin an absolute fortune. He had a beautiful time with us, great time for DAZN, it was a good acquisition for us, but he never really hit the numbers at that stage that the purses warranted.

“Now, I think he made $4 million on Saturday plus upside. The arena looked packed, but Lomachenko’s a big draw. It’s going to be interesting, but you can’t deny Haney’s star value is growing. He went to Australia, won out there, now he’s beaten Lomachenko on ESPN pay-per-view. I guess the pay-per-view heads are gonna be giving us some information real soon, as to the vast diverseness of the pay-per-view numbers, which will probably range from 90,000 to 300,000. Someone’s right, and only a few people will know.”

“We’ve got Regis Prograis, and I don’t see Haney staying at 135 for long. But when you look at the lure Top Rank can have with him — Shakur Stevenson, great fight, also Josh Taylor or Teofimo Lopez at 140. His dad is an interesting guy, Bill Haney, we love him, and he’s going to really feel like he can maneuver Devin.

“If I was Devin, I’d probably consider free agency in a similar way to Canelo Alvarez. Obviously he doesn’t have the same kind of value as Canelo Alvarez, but when you look at the fights that are available to him. You’ve got Regis Prograis at 140 with us, you’ve got Shakur Stevenson and the winner of Teofimo and Josh Taylor with Top Rank, you’ve got Gervonta Davis at PBC, that’s a big fight. I’d be careful if I was him to align himself too deeply. If he’s really chasing greatness, he needs to secure all those fights, so I think he’d be in a great spot around that weight class to maybe take that position.”

On Canelo vs Benavidez being possible

“Ultimately, the fight they want is Dmitry Bivol, and if we can’t deliver that fight, that brings other fights into play. I saw Eddy Reynoso with Sampson Lewkowicz talking about that possibility. I think they’re talking to people to see, if we can’t get Bivol, what are we going to do? We want to build that Edgar Berlanga fight, but he’s still got Jason Quigley, and probably needs one more to sort of cement himself as a legit contender. The Benavidez fight’s a big fight, but he’s just hell-bent on revenge. He’s so desperate to fight Dmitry Bivol, and I take my hat off to him.”

On Lara vs Wood 2 on Saturday

“I’m nervous. The first fight was incredible. Leigh Wood was winning the fight, he boxed beautifully. Got carried away, bit off a little bit too much, got hit with a huge left hook. Ben Davison threw the towel in, I think rightfully so, a lot of talk about that.

“The rematch clause was 90 days, so I said to Leigh, ‘You can let Mauricio Lara fight Josh Warrington, and you can have the winner of that fight.’ ‘No, I want him now. I can beat him.’ He’s training really hard. But I just saw Mauricio Lara fly in, he looks great. He’s hitting the pads. This kid, I think this could be one of the best Mexican fights out there pound-for-pound. So exciting. But Leigh Wood and Ben Davison are so confident in this fight, and it’s going to be a war.”

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