Eddie Hearn says his new UK broadcast deal with DAZN will change the face of boxing in the UK and Ireland and ensure that regular Matchroom pay-per-view shows are a thing of the past.
After months of rumors, Hearn formally announced his new five-year deal with DAZN on Thursday, ending a 27-year relationship between Matchroom and Sky Sports.
“We now have the firepower to change the face of the sport in the UK in terms of the fights we are making,” Hearn said. “It is probably the most exciting move as a business we have ever made.”
Hearn refused to reveal the value of the deal, which also extends the Matchroom partnership in the United States, Italy and Spain, with growth into other countries planned as well.
It is 2½ years since DAZN began bankrolling Hearn’s ambitions in the US. Since then that partnership has extended to Mexico, Italy and Spain. But the end of Matchroom’s latest boxing deal with Sky Sports opened up the way to an agreement with DAZN.
Anthony Joshua, who has one fight left on a contract with Sky Sports, is not part of the DAZN agreement, so he would be free to negotiate his own broadcast deal.
The final Matchroom show on Sky will be on June 12, when Lewis Ritson faces Jeremias Ponce in Newcastle. The deal with DAZN kicks off with Fight Camp, beginning on July 31 and running for three successive Saturday nights.
“I felt within the last few years, especially with the inflation of purses because of the success of the sport, we have been more reliant on the pay-per-view model,” Hearn said. “How many times have we had the debate of ‘is it pay-per-view or not?’ What this allows us to do is make those fight nights and those cards as part of the DAZN schedule.
“AJ sits outside this deal, he has his one fight remaining with Sky Sports, but in terms of the pay-per-views that we have been doing consistently over the last two years, they will be fight nights that will sit on the DAZN platform.
“This deal enables us to put our stable of talent in the big fights moving forward. We will be able to bring world champions to the UK, we will be able to make unification fights. With the global platform, you are also going to see more UK fighters take opportunities on big US shows going forward, because of the value that will give to UK subscribers.”
The new contract is for 16 shows in the UK and Ireland per year, which will be broadcast to DAZN subscribers around the globe. The UK shows will be produced in-house by Matchroom’s own media arm, Matchroom Media, which will also be producing documentaries and regular programming away from live shows.
DAZN are planning their own launch to announce a fight schedule for the rest of the year, but it is understood that after three weeks of Fight Camp, the next UK offering would be Josh Warrington’s rematch with Mauricio Lara on September 4.
Hearn said his global ambition would be to put a show on in a major city worldwide every week, turning his company into a boxing equivalent of the UFC.
“We needed to make a change and do something different and make a move to the next level,” he said. “I felt where we were, we couldn’t move to the next level without increasing the number of pay-per-views. This is a significant moment for Matchroom and DAZN in the UK, but this has a huge global strategy behind it for both businesses.
“The strategy for Matchroom is to be the absolute global powerhouse of boxing and the strategy for DAZN is to be the unrivalled home of global boxing.”
The switch ends a relationship in boxing between Sky Sports and Matchroom that goes back to 1994, when Hearn’s father, Barry, moved Chris Eubank to the then fledgling satellite channel.
“It wasn’t an easy decision for us,” Hearn said. “We have had an incredible relationship with Sky, but this was an opportunity we just couldn’t miss.
“To prise us away from Sky, where we had a number of rounds of negotiations, it had to be a seismic deal.
“I think, when they found out about the actual deal, I feel even they just had to shake my hand and say ‘good luck to you, son’. It was too big an opportunity for our business. They were very disappointed, but at the same time it’s business.
“I expect they will stay in boxing. I think they will regroup, the key focus of their boxing business is pay-per-view, they have a fantastic pay-per-view platform, and I think they will continue to stage pay-per-view events and I am sure they will provide a schedule for subscribers for boxing as well.”