What’s Eddie Hearn’s problem with celebrity boxing?

One of boxing's most notable promoters, Eddie Hearn, isn't too happy with the sport's celebrity takeover.

By: Zane Simon | 2 months ago

By all appearances business in boxing seems to be going strong. Gervonta Davis reportedly sold 1.2 million PPVs for his boxing bout against Ryan Garcia, Canelo Alvarez had two PPVs that drew in the half-million buys range in 2022, and Amanda Serrano and Katie Taylor grabbed $1 million plus purses for their superfight last year. We’ve got Spence vs. Crawford on the near horizon, and Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo set for September.

But if there’s plenty of money getting made inside the ring, not all of it is going into the hands of high level, experienced pros. One of the top drawing events of the last year was Jake Paul vs. Tommy Fury, two men as well known for their celebrity influencer status as their ability to trade punches.

And if the upcoming boxing calendar has some excellent title fights coming, it also has a couple major celebrity events that could eclipse any PPV numbers done by the serious pros. Jake Paul is set to take on former UFC title contender Nate Diaz this August, and heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury is set to fight former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in October.

It’s those celebrity fights that seems to have boxing promoter Eddie Hearn unhappy. The Matchroom mouthpiece took some time to talk about celebrity boxing recently. Safe to say he’s not a fan.

Eddie Hearn talks Kingpyn’s Daniella Hemsley, celebrity boxing

Most recently in the realm of influencer pugilism was the Kingpyn boxing: Whindersson Nunes vs. King Kenny event, featuring Elle Brooke and AnEsonGib. Alongside the normal quotient of mediocre fisticuffs, the card also featured a “flash knockout” from OnlyFans star Daniella Hemsley. Not over her opponent, who she beat via split decision, but over the crowed, whom she left stunned with a revealing display of assets.

In an interview with Boxing Social following Matchroom’s Baumgardner vs. Linardatou 2 event, Hearn gave his thoughts on Hemsley’s revealing post-fight antics. Notably that he hated it, and that he feels boxing needs to distance itself from celebrity fighting as much as it possibly can.

“My opinion is, I hate it,” Hearn said of Hemsley flashing the crowd (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I hate it. We’ve worked so hard for women in boxing to be respected for their ability, for their merits, for their hard work. One thing we must understand is that ain’t boxing. That needs to be pushed. All that stuff — Misfits, Kingpyn, all that stuff. It needs to be booted so far away from professional boxing, and we really need to disassociate ourselves with what it is.

“It does great numbers. It’s entertainment. It’s all of those things, and what we saw there [with Hemsley]. For me, what I’m trying to do and what we’ve been doing for years and years, the sacrifices people have made to be respected — again, it’s not boxing. But at the same time, I think it’s more of a reflection of society than a reflection of good or bad for boxing. I don’t like it.”

“Unfortunately, we now live in a world where role models, or influencers, are not necessarily doing things that the older generation, which I class myself as, or parents would want your kids to see or think is acceptable,” Hearn added, noting that he’s loved having his daughters spend time with a professional fighter like Katie Taylor. “[It’s] nothing to do with women, nothing to do with men. You want your kids to behave in a certain way. That’s not a way you’d want your kids to behave, in my opinion. This is only my opinion. But we live in a f—king mental world. Unfortunately, clout is just being chased all over the place. To each their own.”

Boxing has no one to blame for the influencer takeover than itself

As much as it’s easy to understand Hearn’s knee-jerk dislike for the kind of buffoonery that celebrity boxing brings, combat sports have always had a courting relationship with some of their more carnival-esque iterations. In part, the ease of training compared to more organized stick & ball sports has kept the bar to entry impossibly low. Technically any two people that can get some gloves and a ring together can find a way to put on a boxing match for money. That’s not so easily done with a game of hockey.

However, It also has to be noted that promoters, boxers, and even legislators have worked to keep that bar to entry low for the sake of their own self interest. With so few pieces in play and such a huge potential for money making ventures, the cash that can be gotten from keeping boxing disorganized and from chasing whatever the hot fight of the moment might be means that there’s always room in the game for some total nonsense.

Muhammad Ali’s brutally ugly exhibition fight against Antonio Inoki made millions of dollars back in 1976. In 1999, the WWE featured a legit boxing match on their Wrestlemania XV PPV event. The bout was supposed to be a coming out party for Bart Gunn, winner of the WWE’s brawl for all boxing tournament, set up against journeyman boxing legend “Butterbean” Eric Esch.

Nowhere near an actual capable pro boxing talent, Gunn got knocked dead in just 0:35 seconds. The PPV, however, sold 800,000 buys with a main event featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin taking on the Rock for the WWE heavyweight championship. Where there’s money to be made from two people fighting, boxing will be there to help them see it through.

Boxing has rarely had a place for women

Even leaving aside boxing’s long comfort with and association with the more carnival aspects of combat, there’s also the simple fact that boxing has more or less always treated women as second class competitors and sideshow attractions.

Women have been competing inside the squared circle going all the way back to the 1720s. Yet even today regulators keep female competitors to no more than ten rounds and no longer than two minutes a round. Credit to Hearn, his longtime promotional interest in the career of undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor has been a feather in his cap, and the job he and (celebrity boxing notable) Jake Paul did in building up Taylor vs. Serrano was great.

Along the way, however, Serrano started suggesting that the fight should be for 12, three minute rounds. A chance to create the kind of equality that Hearn was proudly trumpeting with fight purses and publicity for the event, right? Nope. Instead it was too much too soon.

“Right now, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Hearn explained. “In time, I agree with you. I think we need to evolve and make sure that the very elite end of the sport is three-minute rounds. But I will also say this, when you’re introducing something into a market, fast-paced content is always good… Two-minute rounds is great action because you’ve got two minutes. You’ve got to win the round. They come out and the pace is much faster, but you will see more stoppages across three-minute rounds.

“I didn’t feel that now was the time we needed to introduce that. There would be a lot more talk about it being three-minute rounds than actually focusing on what this is, which is a huge, huge fight. So I agree with you in time. Now that the audience for women’s boxing is becoming more educated, more invested, I think we can definitely look at that.”

It’s only been 300 years Eddie. Let’s not rush things.

Celebrity boxing may not have the class or the talent, or even the stakes that actual good high level pugilism aspires to. But, it’s still very much a part of the game. The entrenched promoters can turn their nose up at these part-time fighters looking to make a quick buck. But they’ll never be the ones to create any kind of change that would make those money making opportunities go away.

Share this story

About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories