Pound for pound champion

The new Chairman of Matchroom Sport has been a tad busy of late, tying up loose ends on what could be the biggest, multi-million pound fight deal in boxing history - Fury v Joshua.

Pound for pound champion

The new Chairman of Matchroom Sport has been a tad busy of late, tying up loose ends on what could be the biggest, multi-million pound fight deal in boxing history – Fury v Joshua. But he is taking time out to take part in a new series of Vodafone seminars #ThoseWhoDare, to pass on the secrets of his success…

Like the modern-day plot of some Greek tragedy, Eddie Hearn’s professional life has been defined by his relationship with his father.

Being the son of high-profile sports promoter, Barry Hearn, gave the young Eddie many advantages in life but also, by his own admission, gave him a point to prove.

He readily recounts a tale of the time when he was a young teenager, albeit a very tall one, that his dad invited him to step into the ring with him to test his mettle. As Eddie tells it, he eventually ran out a convincing winner despite his Dad’s efforts to remove his head. 

All character-forming stuff. If it proved anything it was that Eddie had some character already fully-formed. Nobody climbs through those ropes without it.

When I was young I used to love being Barry Hearn’s son. I couldn’t tell you quick enough and I was like ‘do you know who my dad is? Do you know Frank Bruno? Do you know Chris Eubank, they’re my mates,’ you know. 

You look back and think, ‘oh God that’s terrible’. As you get older you realise, you know what, unless you do something a bit special you will always be Barry Hearn’s son which you know, I’m very proud of, but how do you make a mark in the world yourself?

So I had to take things to the next level. I looked at what he did and others might say that is amazing (and it is amazing), he comes from a council estate in Dagenham and he built the business from scratch. I look at it and said well the only way I can get respect for myself in my own right is to take it to a completely new level.

Matchroom Sport

So whilst he enjoyed the perks that went with being the son of someone wealthy and famous, Eddie knew that nothing was going to be handed to him and that he would have to become his own man and a success in his own right. And it is this (in his own words) chip on his shoulder, that forms the basis of the passion that he brings to the business of Matchroom Sport, one of the world’s biggest players in boxing promotion and management.

There can be no doubt that he has achieved his initial goal and more, filling arenas and stadiums, including a sell-out Wembley Stadium for the Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko heavyweight world title fight. He is currently in the process of putting together a deal for what promises to be one of the biggest fights in boxing history between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.

He now operates in the rarefied air of multi million pound deals but despite the advantages of his upbringing, his Dad didn’t hand him the keys to the castle. He had to find his own way there. So he has much to offer in the way of advice for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

To this end, he is taking part in Vodafone’s series of online business seminars under the banner #ThoseWhoDare – a series of one hour sessions from business leaders and disruptors passing on their own hard-won experience and advice.

Hearn seems so busy tying up deals and arranging fights in the global boxing promotion market that it is something of a rarity to see him take part in such an initiative. But despite, the outmoded image of boxing promotion as being all cigar smoke and shady deals, Hearn believes business is business and that he has much to pass on to SMEs and entrepreneurs taking the first steps.

You see me do loads of things from making a plonker of myself in interviews to dealing with brands we associate with for the business and this was a kind of different approach from Vodafone where, huge brand, and complete coincidence I’m also with Vodafone. Genuinely.  And when they got in touch with me I didn’t know whether they were going to ask me to change my monthly payments or ask me to do something

It was really interesting to look at this community of leadership and entrepreneurs who want to talk about their experiences and give people guidance. The one thing that every business owner has in common is a passion for what they do and also the willingness for other people to succeed. That’s a nice thing for people to be able to have. Normally you don’t want your competitors to succeed but when you get to a comfortable point in your life and a comfortable point in your business you’re quite relaxed about that as well.

But certainly coming out of lockdown and seeing small to medium size businesses and even big businesses as well evolve, learn to bounceback and fight back…it’s been a horrendous time for all businesses really unless you’re in the pharmaceutical world or making facemasks.

You have to see it as a challenge you have to be excited in a way about the world that you live in and you also have to be excited at the fact that the end is near, whether it’s June or July, that’s what we’re talking about.

Talking is something that he does well, it has to be said. That, and at 6′ 5, changing lightbulbs. It’s central to what he believes is the key not just to his success in boxing but also in business generally.

In boxing it’s all about personal relationships. You’re dealing with a highly charged testosterone-filled, macho world and now obviously we’ve got the ladies coming in as well which is another element (and they are a lot easier to deal with than some of the guys). It’s really about managing relationships.  Being honest.  

When you become older and you become a lot more successful you become a lot more honest. And when you’re honest it’s a lot easier to deal with situations and people. Credibility is everything in business and that’s something that’s very important to us.

The other thing which is common to all businesses is budgeting and forecasting and making sure you are absolutely across the numbers at all times.

You see so many small businesses that will start and have they even created a budget? Have they done a financial analysis and really looked at the numbers?

Be conservative with your budgeting. That’s something that the team do here really well because I’m a very positive kind of guy, so my budgeting will be on the up side of our events whereas the team’s budgeting now will be on the down side. 

So, before the event I might look at it and go, hmmmm, but when the actual event numbers come in you look at it and go wow! We did well! So, make sure you are realistic; make sure you understand the numbers, make sure there’s going to be no shocks coming into the business and make sure that you budget on the down side of turnover and sales because again coming out of this pandemic you just don’t know.

Run a good business. Run a business that is built on integrity, hard work and passion and on the best product that you can deliver.

If ever talking becomes a sport, Eddie is a good shout for the next Olympics. But, it’s not wide-boy bullshit. It is wisdom acquired in the business of the hardest game of all, and applicable to life generally.

He’s certainly worth listening to.

Eddie Hearn will be sharing his best advice on managing a successful business at Vodafone’s #ThoseWhoDare virtual conference on the 17th May. As part of its ambition to support SMEs (small and medium enterprises), the week-long event will feature keynotes from over 30 dynamic and game-changing entrepreneurs. Register your attendance here.

Ronnie Dungan
Ronnie Dungan

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