Eddie Hearn has braced himself for an awkward fight week in Arlington, Texas.
The British promoter represents Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders, but Saunders is bothered because the unbeaten WBO super middleweight champion claims Hearn has favored Alvarez throughout the promotion of the 168-pound title unification fight. Tyson Fury, Saunders’ close friend, and Saunders’ father, Tom, are among his supporters who’ve criticized Hearn publicly for perceived mistreatment of Saunders during the buildup toward the biggest fight of the British southpaw’s career.
Tom Saunders stated Hearn has shown “no loyalty” and that there’s “no trust” between them during a recent interview available on Boxing Social’s YouTube channel. Hearn, who has promoted Alvarez’s past three fights, disputes Saunders’ perception of how he has been treated.
Matchroom Boxing’s group managing director doesn’t think he could’ve done more than secure the most important fight and the biggest purse of Saunders’ 12-year professional career during their relatively brief partnership. Saunders signed with Matchroom in August 2019 after parting ways with longtime promoter Frank Warren, Hearn’s rival.
“I have a decent relationship with Billy Joe Saunders,” Hearn told IFL TV during an interview that was posted recently to its YouTube channel. “I can’t tell you that we’re close. But I had a job to do for Billy Joe Saunders, which was deliver him the opportunities and the fights that no one else could or has delivered for him in his career. We all know that last year I got to deliver him the Canelo Alvarez fight, in 2020. We were one day away from announcing the fight [for last May 2 in Las Vegas]. Everything was signed and agreed, and COVID hit. And it was a real kick in the nuts.
“And we had to put up with people saying, ‘When you gonna get Billy Joe Saunders a big fight? When you gonna …?’ And it’s like, ‘We had it.’ He went off and he boxed Martin Murray [on December 4]. And now I delivered him the Canelo Alvarez fight. I can’t really do any more than that, so if he don’t like me or they don’t like me, then there’s not really a lot I can do.”
Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) and his team have complained about the process of selecting judges for his fight against Alvarez (55-1-2, 37 KOs) on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Hearn contends that Saunders and his handlers were well aware that the Texas Combative Sports Program ultimately would choose the judges, and that there wouldn’t be a British judge assigned to the fight, because those things were stipulated in his contract.
Tom Saunders also alleged that Hearn informed them that his son’s fight against Alvarez would take place without fans in attendance. He took issue with Hearn attending a workout recently at Alvarez’s gym in San Diego as well.
“I watched the interview,” Hearn said, referring to Tom Saunders’ interview with Boxing Social. “Then he said, ‘We were told there’d be no crowd.’ And I don’t understand. We’ve just done two fights with Canelo Alvarez with 15,000 people and with 15,000 people. There was always gonna be a crowd. Did I think we’d sell 65,000 tickets? No, not really. But, you know, we weren’t able to take this fight to Vegas, where you can command a huge gate, like a normal Canelo Alvarez fight. And the other comment was he saw me in Canelo’s gym. Well, I flew to San Diego [two weeks ago] to see Canelo Alvarez. I stayed there for a few hours, and then I flew straight to see Billy Joe Saunders, to do the same [in Las Vegas]. So, it’s disappointing because, honestly, it’s like people say, ‘You’re already planning the Caleb Plant fight.’ My contract with Canelo Alvarez finishes with this fight. Now, if he wins, will we work together? I hope so. You know, if he loses, will we work together? I hope so. But it’s not a case of trying to take any side of this.
“It’s a horrible problem that you have when you promote both fighters in a fight. I’ve told you before, I hate it because someone always feels, ‘Oh, you’re siding with him.’ Not at all. I’ve delivered you the opportunity that you asked me to deliver, and the rest is up to you. I can’t do any more. You know, if you don’t want me around, you don’t wanna speak to me, that’s disappointing. But, you know, if he goes and wins, I’ll be delighted for him. And, you know, I feel like I’ve done a good job for Billy Joe Saunders. You know, there really was a time where I had to back him through a little bit of a sticky period, to be honest with you. And I actively backed him in interviews, and across social media, when a lot of people probably told me I shouldn’t. But that’s irrelevant. I like Billy Joe Saunders. I have no problem with Tom. I like Tom Watts [Saunders’ camp manager], the team, and Greg [Marriott, Saunders’ nutritionist] and Mark Tibbs [Saunders’ trainer]. I think they’re great people, and I wish them all the best. But I can’t do anything more than give them the opportunity, and the rest is up to them.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.