Promoter Eddie Hearn believes the Leeds public’s sporting passion for Josh Warrington, could see the boxer claim world glory. Lee Sobot reports.
Essex-born sports promoter Eddie Hearn was 15 when he found himself at Elland Road for the 1995 FA Cup semi-final between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur.
His dad became chairman of Leyton Orient but Hearn grew up supporting Spurs.
A miserable journey back down south followed with Tottenham walloped 4-1.
But 20 years on, Leeds is bringing Hearn good times through his promoting of boxing ace Josh Warrington which is even threatening to make him an adopted Leeds United fan.
Hearn, 34, is ‘Group Managing Director’ of Matchroom Sport – a company his dad, Barry Hearn, founded.
And it is through the Brentwood-based Matchroom Boxing aspect that chiselled Hearn is most recognised with the southerner becoming a regular in promoting mega-bucks fights on Sky Sports. The likes of Kell Brook and Carl Froch are in the Matchroom Boxing armoury and through recent edition Warrington and his passionate following, the city of Leeds has become etched on Hearn’s heart.
Die-hard Leeds United supporter Warrington is followed by an army of Whites fans and the promoter first noticed Warrington and his passionate backing during the boxer’s defeat of Samir Mouneimne in Hull in November 2013.
“I remember he brought a couple of hundred with him and I thought ‘he’s got a good following’” mused Hearn.
“I remember they were singing to me to sign him up.”
Six months later, he’d done exactly that with both Warrington’s following and Hearn’s new-found passion for Leeds moving on leaps and bounds since.
Hearn will now be one of Warrington’s most ardent supporters come tonight’s fight in Leeds with Dennis Tubieron – and the promoter “cannot wait” to be mesmerised by the boxer’s vociferous and passionate fanbase that for Hearn is becoming rather infectious.
Asked if it was possible that Warrington’s legions could make him an adopted Leeds United supporter, Hearn told the YEP: “Well I think I am!
“Other than Leyton Orient I’ve never really followed a football club though when I was very young I used to support Spurs and I remember being at Elland Road actually for Spurs v Everton when the semis were held there.
“It then became Leyton Orient because obviously my dad bought the club.
“I don’t really have the time to really follow a club specifically but what I do love is the passion and I’ve not seen passion like this for a fighter since Ricky Hatton.
“The atmosphere at the Arena for the Davide Dieli fight, I would go as far as to say it was breathtaking and, especially as a promoter, it’s an atmosphere that leaves you very warm when you leave the venue.
“It’s not hostile but it’s very, very passionate and, for an away fighter, it’s not the greatest place to be. That’s what you try and make it for a football team.
“You want a cauldron and it’s a cauldron but it’s a cauldron of passion rather than a cauldron of hate.
“It’s not like that – it’s not that kind of environment and for me, as a promoter, every time we go to Leeds, we are showcasing Leeds.
“What we are getting is an atmosphere that has not been seen in British boxing before since Hatton. It’s one of the best atmosphere’s in British sport and I’ve Tweeted that a couple of times.
“People go ‘oh you do go over the top Eddie because you are a promoter’ but I’m serious.
“I go to all the big events and I can’t remember a live sporting event with this kind of atmosphere in this kind of arena. It’s brilliant and I can’t wait for Saturday night.”
Warrington’s followers will also be particularly pleased to see Hearn who hit it off with several hundred members of the boxer’s fanbase during February’s defeat of Edwin Tellez in Berlin.
The boxer sold around 400 tickets for an eight-rounder in Germany and that following made themselves known during Hearn’s attempt at conducting a post fight interview.
“They asked me to give them a dance so I had to give them a little dance,” laughed Hearn.
“And Berlin was just absolutely nuts.
“He sold I think 400 tickets to fly to Berlin for an eight rounder and you just don’t see that kind of following. If he keeps progressing like he is then fighting at Elland Road is an absolute given.
“I arranged to meet some of his fans in Berlin and before we went into the arena I bought everyone a few beers.
“It’s just a thank you really because it is a lot of money, especially to fly out there for an eight rounder. I understand if it’s world title fight but they go for the craic, they go for the atmosphere, they go for the support and they are all as one.
“Sometimes people criticise Josh’s fans and say ‘well, they are football fans, not boxing fans.’ But actually, to grow a fanbase to the size needed you can’t just have boxing fans as they aren’t enough. If the association with the football club brings in more boxing fans then great and they are all there to watch Josh Warrington. This is passion for Josh Warrington and this is passion for someone that is putting Leeds on the map and someone that can go and win world titles for Leeds.”
And a title for Hearn whose business continues to go from strength to strength with the magnitude of his activity is summed up by the fact that the voicemail service on his mobile is full.
“The job is draining, it is a pain in the arse, and it’s hard work,” admitted Hearn.
“But the rewards of winning, the rewards of putting on these shows and the reward of seeing great people go on and achieve great things in their career and lift world titles is very, very rewarding. We’ve got a passion for everything we do – whether it’s darts, snooker, golf or boxing but boxing is my big passion and we live it every day. You might not see us doing the hill sprints in the morning but you will see us up at three or four o’clock in the morning with the west coast of America trying to do the big deals. It’s a great sport and we’re just getting started.”
Another chapter will develop in Leeds this evening, yet the most important part of Hearn’s life – family – is reserved for Sundays.
Hearn’s wife Chloe runs ‘Chloe’s Beauty’s Bar’ with TOWIE star Chloe Sims in Brentwood and the sports promoter and his wife have two daughters, five-year-old Isabella and two-year-old Sophia.
A lot about Hearn can be said from his Twitter page bio – ‘Family first...business close second.’
“My daughters drive me absolutely mental and I don’t really see enough of them unfortunately,” said Hearn.
“But whenever I’m at home, I am with them non stop.
“Unfortunately, there’s very little rest and it’s either non stop work or non stop getting jumped on by my two little girls. But family is very, very important to us and every Sunday we are round my mum’s – all the family for Sunday lunch and that’s the way it’s always been.”
Tomorrow they will be discussing last night’s antics at First Direct Arena, and maybe one day Hearn could return to Elland Road 20 years after that FA Cup semi-final only this time to cheer on Leeds.
“I’d love to go there one day for a big game,” admitted Hearn.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been there but we might be going there for the boxing rather than football!”