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It’s a ‘Three-Peat’ for Eddie Hearn, the 2018 TSS Promoter of the Year

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Hearn

One billion.

That was the glitzy number rolling off the lips of men and women in sharp business suits as they knocked back glasses of champagne atop a rooftop garden in midtown Manhattan back in early May. It was here, in the commercial capital of the world, that UK promoter Eddie Hearn announced an eight-year deal with subscription streaming platform, DAZN, in a play to dramatically alter how boxing is consumed and disseminated  — all, yes, to the tune of one billion walloping dollars. The fine print let you know, of course, that only two years were guaranteed, among other caveats. But who was counting? Certainly not Hearn (pictured with his father, Matchroom Sport founder Barry Hearn), whose enterprising ways once again, for the third year in a row, make him TSS 2018 Promoter of the Year.

Some readers will find the honor redundant, perhaps even dubious. But if Hearn’s work in 2016 and 2017 at Matchroom might be charitably described as “domestic-level,” his endeavors this past year were far more international and innovative in scope.

No one would have begrudged Hearn if he had decided to stay put in an Essex abode and oversee, twice a year, what is by now one of the great sporting spectacles today: an Anthony Joshua fight, which depending on whether it takes place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff or at Wembley Stadium in London, typically draws upwards of 75,000 spectators. But the inexhaustible Hearn, smelling fame and fortune across the Atlantic, had other ambitions in mind other than counting “AJ” gate receipts and PPV revenue from the comfort of his chaise lounge.

“I am trying to do what no UK promoter has ever done,” said Hearn shortly after announcing the DAZN deal. “Everybody wants us to fail, just like they did when we came into the UK five or six years ago, but this deal gives me a chance. In six years’ time we want to be the No 1 promoter in America.”

That last statement might make a veteran US promoter like Bob Arum keel over on the floor in stitches. But the fact remains that Hearn arrives with more ammunition than any British outsider since the colonial days. By linking up with DAZN — a startup bankrolled by billionaire Len Blavatnik and helmed by ex-ESPN head John Skipper — Hearn boasts the infrastructure to grow his firm into an American and perhaps even global powerhouse. But it is his position at the forefront of the new technology that DAZN represents that makes Hearn the most noteworthy promoter of the past year. If streaming is the future (as seemingly everyone in the sports media aisle seems to think), Hearn wants to be sure that he has a seat at the table.

Through Hearn, DAZN, the self-styled “Netflix of Sports,” has bulldozed its way into the American boxing market at a time in which the industry has never looked more in flux and fragmented. The news that HBO would no longer showcase boxing sent shockwaves across the industry, but for purely sentimental reasons. In reality, the boxing business had long outgrown the diminishing offerings from HBO. How Hearn will steer his company in this new landscape as DAZN’s chief content provider will be a key story in the coming years.

Hearn launched the first DAZN boxing card in September with the Anthony Joshua-Alexander Povetkin fight in Cardiff. October was even busier. The first DAZN show in the US was held in Chicago and showcased the likes of Artur Beterbiev, Danny Roman, Katie Tayler, and Jarrell Miller, as well as the main event pairing Jessie Vargas against Thomas Dulorme. A few weeks later, Hearn promoted one of the last HBO shows at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden featuring the tightly-contested middleweight title match between his charge Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko. The following weekend, Hearn flew up to Boston to stage another middleweight showdown on DAZN headlined by new signee Demetrius Andrade. Tevin Farmer, another DAZN signee, fought on the undercard.

But what has truly earned Hearn goodwill with boxing’s finicky hardcore fanbase was his decision to put his weight behind the World Boxing Super Series, the much-lauded tournament series that lacked a significant and serious broadcast partner in its first iteration. An otherworldly talent like knockout artist Naoya Inoue, who is currently participating in the bantamweight tournament, deserves to seen by a US audience.

In a hint at his global designs, Hearn announced recently that Matchroom/DAZN would begin staging eight boxing cards a year in Italy, where DAZN currently has a significant presence in the soccer scene (Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is a global ambassador for DAZN).

But for all the initial fanfare, the past year for Hearn has not been without its learning curves. His bold promise (or was it brash gloating?) to lure marketable US fighters aligned with Al Haymon, including Gervonta Davis, Adrien Broner, and the Charlo twins, fell flat on its face when the PBC announced its output deal with Fox, in addition to renewing its commitment with Showtime. And while Beterbiev, Andrade, Farmer, and Miller are nothing to scoff at, they are hardly the kind of fighters entrusted to bring major credibility and recognition to a brand sorely in need of both. Indeed, the splash that DAZN was looking for would come later in the year and without Hearn’s involvement: the signing of Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to an exclusive contract estimated to be worth $365 million.

Furthermore, though Hearn signing unified cruiserweight titleholder Oleksandr Uysk certainly deserves praise, his current roster of US fighters are not as impressive as he would have you believe. The November 17 show pitting a mismatch between Jarrell Miller and Bogdan Dinu and as well as a tawdry assortment of over-the-hill fighters, like Brandon Rios and Gabriel Rosado, in boxing backwater Kansas City was an obvious clunker.

Still, there has been no promoter in 2018 more joined to the efforts, for better or worse, to reinvent the sport. Who knows, maybe six years from now Hearn will find himself back safely ensconced in his London office happily hyping a homegrown contender from Yorkshire, and DAZN, blanched and faded from years of financial hemorrhaging, will have been auctioned off to some Silicon Valley unicorn at pennies to the dollar. Maybe.

In any case, should Hearn seek to add another TSS trophy to his Chippendale cabinet for a four-peat, he need only do one simple thing in 2019: cut the dillydallying and make the heavyweight matchup that everyone wants to see in Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder. Like many of the sport’s most colorful impresarios before him, Hearn has attracted both admiration and disgust at a fever pitch. He will have much more of the former when he truly decides to play ball with Wilder’s handlers and consummate the one fight that would benefit the sport as a whole.

But that is supposing he cares about such a thing. Most promoters, as they have shown time and time again, do not. We will find out soon if Hearn is any different.

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

Big money prizefighting returns to the Los Angeles area with back-to-back shows. First, Serhii Bohachuk heads a 360 Promotions card on Friday and then Alexis Rocha is featured on Saturday in a Golden Boy Promotions production. And on the same day Riverside’s Saul Rodriguez fights in his hometown.

Bohachuk, Rocha, and Rodriguez are aggressive big hitters.

Ukraine’s Bohachuk seeks to regain footing in the super welterweight division. He was rapidly climbing up the ratings ladder when first he was defeated by Brandon Adams two years ago. And then the invasion of his home country Ukraine stalled him even more.

On Friday Jan. 27, at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. Bohachuk (21-1, 21 KOs) meets Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1, 17 KOs) in the main event. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Few fighters are as well-liked outside of the prize ring as Bohachuk. Always amiable, he’s one of the handful of fighters that always smiles. Inside the ring, he’s a killer. No one leaves without someone getting knocked out.

Gallimore, 34, is no slouch. He has a knockout win over former world titlist Jeison Rosario and has battled almost all of the top super welterweights. He is a veteran and very crafty.

The Quiet Cannon venue is not very large, but it does have a patio and good food and drink. Most of the crowd ventures from all over Southern California to attend the fights at that venue. It gets packed.

Golden Boy in Inglewood

Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha headlines the Golden Boy Promotions card on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the brand new YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif. DAZN will stream the fight card.

Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs) faces George Ashie (33-5-1) in the main event set for 12 rounds. Finally, there is an opponent for the left-handed fighter from Santa Ana. It didn’t look like he was going to fight after opponent after opponent fell out for one reason or another.

“You have to be ready for anybody they put in front of you. If it’s you or George Ashie, I have to prepare for it. I have to focus on what I can do,” said Rocha.

Others on the card include super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev (10-1) vs Ulises Sierra (17-2-2) set for 10 rounds. Also, good looking lightweight prospect Floyd Schofield (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Alberto Mercado (17-4-1).

Schofield fights out of Austin, Texas and looks like someone to watch.

Doors open at 3 p.m.

Neno Returns in San Bernardino        

Garcia Promotions stages a boxing card on Saturday Jan. 28, at the Club Event Center in San Bernardino. Garcia Promotions is associated with trainer Robert Garcia and family whose training compound is located in nearby Riverside.

A primarily local fight card featuring all fighters from Garcia’s gym will be performing.

Headlining is Saul “Neno” Rodriguez out of Riverside, California.

It’s been nearly three years since Rodriguez (24-1-1, 18 KOs) last fought and he faces Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo (6-1, 3 KOs) in the co-main event.

At one time Rodriguez was a big fan favorite because of his fast work and knockout ability. Once he got to the top plateau he ran into another knockout puncher in Miguel Angel Gonzalez and lost by stoppage.

Prizefighting is a tricky road. One loss can mean difficulty in finding a big-time promoter or it can mean discovering what you need to do to re-establish your skills. A fighter can go the road of Kermit “The Killer” Cintron and find out other ways to win without a kill-or be-killed style. Or they can travel the road of Marco Antonio Barrera who was knocked out by Junior Jones but adapted a more boxer-puncher style that allowed him to defeat Erik Morales twice and Prince Naseem Hamed.

Rodriguez, 29, still has time to make a good run for a title bid. It all starts on Saturday.

Others on the Garcia Promotions card are fighters who are part of trainer Garcia’s stable including Gabriel Muratalla, Leonardo Ruiz, Jose Rodriguez and others.

Doors open at 4 p.m. with amateurs opening the boxing program.

Fights to Watch

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (21-1) vs Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 11:30 a.m. Artur Beterbiev (18-0) vs Anthony Yarde (23-2).

Sat. DAZN  5 p.m. Alexis Rocha (21-1) vs George Ashie (33-5-1).

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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