Advertisement
Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: -3°C
Emily Harney/INPHO Eddie Hearn and Katie Taylor.
# dem apples
'We're not selling out MSG just because people are going, 'Let's go and support women's sport''
With MSG almost sold out for Saturday, Eddie Hearn has reiterated that he would be ‘very disappointed’ if Taylor never fights in Ireland as a professional.

THERE WAS A time in late 2019 when Eddie Hearn was inundated with suggestions from his broadcast partners at Sky Sports that he stage a Katie Taylor-headlined, pay-per-view card in the UK.

Hearn was publicly in favour of the concept but privately hesitant at the time: it would have caused him a lot of hassle for relatively little reward, and the bill would have required a seriously strong — and expensive — undercard in order to tempt more casual sports fans to order in the fight the way they would an Anthony Joshua- or Tyson Fury-headlined event.

Sky, many of whose executives were genuine Taylor fans, felt it could be the centerpiece of a massive women’s-sport drive. Those more closely tuned into boxing would have argued that it was still a bit soon from a business standpoint. Both could have been correct.

Fast forward two and a half years and Hearn has amicably parted company with Sky Sports altogether, the Essex man’s promotional company, Matchroom, hitching their wagon to a potentially brighter star in the shape of the global sports streaming platform, DAZN.

And on Saturday, live on DAZN, undisputed lightweight champion Taylor will headline not in the UK but at Madison Square Garden, New York for an era-defining straightener with Puerto Rican rival Amanda Serrano, a seven-division beltholder.

It no longer feels too soon. Indeed, strictly competitively, one could argue the fight has come too late for Taylor, who hasn’t looked her best since her walloping of Miriam Gutierrez in November 2020. But commercially, Taylor-Serrano no longer needs a female prefix. All metrics now point towards this being one of the biggest boxing fights of the year.

katie-taylor Gary Carr / INPHO Katie Taylor at Wednesday's workout. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Over 260 media workers from around the world applied to Matchroom to cover this fight — the same number as applied for Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium in 2017, and more than have applied for Canelo Alvarez versus Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas on 7 May.

That interest felt tangible at this afternoon’s fighter workout at MSG, which was so full that this writer actually mistook it for an open-to-the-public event. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

“Someone’s just said to me, ‘Wow, great turnout from the fans!’” Hearn laughs. “And I went, ‘It’s just media. We’re not open to the public.’ It’s just unbelievable.

“We were at 14,000 tickets. We’re going to sell the whole thing out,” he adds of Saturday night’s 20,000-capacity fight venue.

“Yesterday (Taylor and Serrano’s face-off at Madison Square Garden) was massive. It’s only Wednesday! We’ve got the press conference tomorrow, weigh-in on Friday which is open to the public. It’s amazing, a great feeling.

It’s quite unusual in boxing to get such a feeling of goodwill for an event to do well. D’you know what I mean? Most people have got the voodoo dolls out, sticking pins in me and hoping for rain for outdoor events and stuff like that! Whereas people here are just going, ‘Aw, it’s great. What a great moment for boxing.’

katie-taylor-and-eddie-hearn Matchroom Boxing / Mark Robinson/INPHO Taylor and Hearn share a joke. Matchroom Boxing / Mark Robinson/INPHO / Mark Robinson/INPHO

When asked if he ever anticipated that Saturday night’s fight, more than five years in the making, would ever take on the magnitude — and gain the global traction — that is has, Hearn responds curtly: “No.

“I mean, I knew it’d be big but the support… Even MSG, they’ve put everything into this.

One thing I will say is that there’s a lot of organisations and broadcasters who feel like they should support women’s sport because it’s a nice look or a box ticked. It’s nice to see an event stand alone like this in its own right, on its own quality. We’re not selling out MSG just because people are going, ‘Let’s go and support women’s sport’. We’re selling it out because it’s an unbelievable fight. And that’s how you create longevity within something: if it’s good enough.

“If it’s good enough, if it draws, if it rates, it will live on. And that’s what’s happening now with women’s boxing. Obviously, it’s [because of] Katie Taylor.”

Taylor has certainly been the chief catalyst in the sport’s culture shift from a widespread sentiment of ‘who cares about women’s boxing’ to genuine interest in the top-tier women’s fights, but it would be wrong to suggest that her name alone is carrying Saturday night’s bout in the Big Apple.

Along with Amanda Serrano, admittedly assisted by her leaning into her longstanding rivalry with the better-known Taylor, has become a household name in the sport. She has had help, too, from a man who has infiltrated professional boxing more successfully than anybody outside of Conor McGregor and his 2017 dalliance with Floyd Mayweather.

YouTube star and fully fledged pro boxer Jake Paul has taken Serrano under his management umbrella and has mostly paused his own boxing activity in order to use his profile for the betterment of Saturday night’s bout.

amanda-serrano-and-jake-paul Gary Carr / INPHO Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul at Wednesday's workout. Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

Paul was part of the negotiations for the bout, ensuring that Serrano will earn a seven-figure paycheck (albeit still less than the unequivocal A-side and champion, Taylor), an unprecedented windfall for a female title challenger.

He has also actively promoted the bout at every turn, joining his de facto counterpart Hearn at each press event since the fight was confirmed earlier this year. (Incidentally, it’s understood that it was Paul who initially refused to stage a press conference in Dublin, believing — probably wrongly — that his ongoing feud with McGregor would detract attention from Taylor and Serrano. The pressers instead took place in New York and London, much to the ire of Irish-boxing fans and media alike).

“Somebody said to me earlier, ‘Do you like Jake Paul?” Hearn smiles. “And I hadn’t really thought about it. I’m using Jake Paul. He’s using me. We’re all using each other because we want to make the fight as big as possible.

“Like, it’s quite unusual to come to a show and to see more cameras around another promoter than me,” he laughs.

“But let him do it! He’s not standing there thinking, ‘I don’t like Eddie Hearn so I’m not going to push this show hard.’ It’s common sense to say, ‘Let’s make this fight as big as it can be.’ And on Saturday night, I’m going to shake his hand and tell him, ‘Well done for everything. You’re about to lose in about 10 minutes.’

“I think Katie’s going to stop her,” Hearn adds. He acknowledges that it’s an unusual prediction and, based on everything we know of Taylor and Serrano’s respective careers to this point, highly unlikely to come to fruition.

It’s just… She’s got that look in her eye, even during the head-to-head (atop the Empire State Building) yesterday, where… I dunno. You get to know Katie over the years and this week, one thing I notice: she ain’t messing around. Like, she’s here to fight. And this is her Garden. D’you know what I mean? This is her house.

Exclusive Six
Nations Analysis

Get Murray Kinsella’s exclusive analysis of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign this spring

Become a Member

“But Serrano looks great,” Hearn stresses. “She looked really strong [at the workout] and you can see the power of her punches. It’s going to be very dangerous but it’s going to be a thriller.

“This feels — in a different way — like the biggest fight I’ve ever been involved with. In different kinds of ways. In terms of the different media here — like, you’ve got the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment here supporting this fight!

“You’ve got the Empire State Building being lit up in the Irish and Puerto Rican colours [on Saturday night]…”

As for how that gesture came to fruition, Hearn laughs: “I’ve no idea! I’d like to take the credit for it but I only found out about it yesterday… But it goes back to people wanting this to do well. Like, MSG, Jim Dolan (CEO), all the management, they’ve been saying, ‘Let’s make this massive. Let’s create a moment in time.’

“And when Katie walks out on Saturday, there’ll be a lump in the throat.”

eddie-hearn-katie-taylor-amanda-serrano-and-jake-paul Matchroom Boxing / Ed Mulholland/INPHO Taylor and Serrano, flanked by Hearn and Paul, square off atop the Empire State Building. Matchroom Boxing / Ed Mulholland/INPHO / Ed Mulholland/INPHO

Regardless of the result, this is all going to be hard to top. Taylor doesn’t have a lot of road left in the sport and, conventionally, the only way up from a sold-out MSG — or close enough to it — is an outdoor stadium.

Taylor, however, has on paper another avenue available to her: a homecoming bout.

A Taylor fight at the 3Arena was close — indeed, only days off being confirmed — in the spring of 2018. In the end, professional boxing’s proximity to the Kinahan-Hutch gangland feud, and especially Daniel Kinahan’s inextricable links both to the sport and to the MTK Global-managed Irish fighters who would likely have populated Matchroom’s undercard, persuaded gardaí to strongly advise against staging the event.

It hasn’t explicitly been explored since because ‘the climate’ hadn’t changed. But with Kinahan under severe pressure from international authorities and MTK Global out for the count, the long-considered-impossible Taylor homecoming has been upgraded to a pipedream again, which is something.

“I just think that it would be very disappointing if we never got the chance to go to Ireland and let her have that moment,” Hearn says. “We’ll see what happens.

I think it’s too early to comment on anything that’s happened but if she beats Serrano… Even to go back there for the rematch, y’know? Let’s see what happens but to do number two there, or fight anyone — I would be very disappointed if we never got that chance.
Your Voice
Readers Comments
13
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel