• Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing company promotes world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and also produces shows around the world, feels these are uncertain times for every sport.
•The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have already seen Hearn cancel fights involving Sunderland welterweight Josh Kelly and also Newcastle lightweight Lewis Ritson.
Many fighters will be forced to leave boxing because of the impacts of the coronavirus crisis, promoter Eddie Hearn has warned.
On Monday, the British Boxing Board of Control extended the suspension of events until May and a number of major fights have already been cancelled — and Hearn expects many boxers to have to get different jobs in the future.
“The coronavirus is going to have a massive impact on every business, particularly boxing,” Hearn told the BBC Radio 5 Live Boxing podcast.
“If this drags on to September, October, November, December we will have fighters that have not boxed this year. The fighters at the top end are going to be fine but the fighters coming through, small hall fighters, ones starting their careers or those who do not have a sponsorship deal face big concerns.”
“They will have to give up the sport of boxing and get a job and that’s heartbreaking for someone trying to live their dreams. If there are no events, the companies are not making money and the athletes are not getting prize money. We will see a lot of fighters have to give up the sport of boxing at a lower level because there’s no income. “
Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing company promotes world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and also produces shows around the world, feels these are uncertain times for every sport.
“We do not want people to leave the sport, we want the more fighters the better,” said Hearn. “But look at the Olympics, these people have grafted for four years to achieve their dream and fight in Tokyo.”
“There’s no chance of these Olympics taking place so what are they going to do? Everything is going to be a complete reshuffle of every sport. The Premier League moving back four months affects next season, the Euros have been cancelled, what will happen to the Olympic cycle? What will happen with our shows?
“We’re delaying events in place and fighters are delaying their time to peak and earn, everyone is holding their breath to see how long this lasts — the message right now is do as people say. We hope to return to action in late or mid summer but no-one knows.”
Hearn believes boxing will ‘100% survive’, but not all the businesses or promoters connected with the sport will.
He said: “If you don’t run a sustainable business very quickly this is going to unfold on you like a ton of bricks. Things have gathered momentum and it’s been changing to worrying about your business to worrying about your family — that’s when the other stuff plays second fiddle. You realise the severity of this and it’s about life and death rather than just running a business.”
“It’s heartbreaking to see every sport suffer and some sports will never recover, some businesses will never recover but more importantly some people will never recover. When that’s an issue everything stops and everything becomes insignificant.
“We will beat this, we must do as we’re told but there will still be a future for this country, this sport and this economy.”
The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have already seen Hearn cancel fights involving Sunderland welterweight Josh Kelly and also Newcastle lightweight Lewis Ritson. Matchroom has major shows scheduled for May 2 in Manchester (Dillian Whyte v Alexander Povetkin — heavyweight), May 9 in Cardiff (Lee Selby v George Kambosos Jr — world lightweight title eliminator) and May 23 in London (Oleksandr Usyk v Dereck Chisora — heavyweight).
“Everything has been moving non-stop,” added Hearn. “When it [coronavirus] first happened we looked into running shows behind closed doors, we spoke to the BBBofC they said the concern was the doctors would not be available, we might not get into the hospitals and it became a non-starter.
“We tried to create television shows, talkshows, but as it became more serious, this became impossible. It’s about being creative, producing new content, new shows and having to consider the idea of studio shows and behind-closed-doors shows once the coast is clear — that may happen before the big arenas do.”
“We have to make sure any fighter we have who is financially struggling is taken care of but we’re lucky that a lot of fighters might have a monthly wage from us, a sponsorship deal or have earned enough money to be OK for four or five months. The ones lower down the scale are in big problems because they do not know when then are going to be fighting. This is a problem so deep, not just for fighters starting their career but also for darts players, snooker players, footballers starting out, cricketers.”
“With the situation with the government and statutory pay, fighters can’t go to the government and get 80% of their salary that does not exist.”
Joshua is due to defend his world titles against against Kubrat Pulev on 20 June at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, although Hearn has already said this could be moved back to July because Tottenham may be still playing Premier League matches then.
Asked whether, if the Pulev fight was cancelled, Joshua would then fight WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury in the winter, Hearn replied: “Right now our plan is to fight Pulev in June or July then fight Fury or whoever holds the WBC belt at the time.
“If the Pulev fight can’t take place we may end up seeing that fight [against Fury] happen later this year. It wouldn’t be ideal for AJ boxing in December to have been out for a whole year going into a fight like that but I don’t think he would have a problem with it.”