Why Frank Warren has been at war with the Hearns for fifty years

Before promoting this event, Frank Warren, left, says he had never been in the same room as Eddie Hearn, right – Getty Images/Mark Robinson

It says something about the murderous rivalry between two promotional dynasties: when Frank Warren was shot by an unknown assailant in 1989, Barry Hearn claims police knocked on his front door the next morning.

It may be an apocryphal story from Hearn, who says he had an alibi when he watched Steve Davis play snooker in Preston, but it is a measure of the fierce competition that has existed between two sporting organizations and has been going on for at least thirty years returns to the boxing world. year as you delve deep into the history of two young men, both from London, who knew how to build businesses, be tough and graft their way up.

On Saturday evening here in Riyadh, for the first time, two titans of the British sporting world pitted five of their best boxers against each other, all watched by the current emperor of martial arts, His Excellency Turki Alalshikh, a Saudi Arabian minister who has invested the boxing changed in the past ten months.

It sparked a kind of entente cordiale between Warren and Hearn, their companies Queensberry and Matchroom, who have created a ‘5 vs. 5’ event that, apart from the biggest fights, is close to fantasy matchmaking.

Working with both Frank and Eddie Hearn, who has been in charge of Hearn Snr’s boxing empire for the past fourteen years, Minister Alalshikh simply said: “work together, make it happen.”

Such a bitter rivalry had developed over the years that the promoters themselves had never thought about it, as they vied for airtime and broadcasters. And control. Nothing new in boxing. But Alalshikh, and of course the investment, created the catalyst for collaboration.

Warren and HearnWarren and Hearn

Warren and Hearn brought together by Saudi money – Getty Images/Mark Robinson

“For us, this is a fist fight in the parking lot.”

“We mean business, it’s real bragging rights,” explains Warren, 72, head of Queensberry Promotions. “It’s good that we work together, but I’m determined to win this 5-0. And Eddie is already a better promoter than Barry [his father] used to be.”

He means it too, behind the friendly handshakes with Eddie Hearn, the warm smile and their many joint interviews. Boxing promoters are among the fattest figures in the sport. “This is like a fist fight in the car park for us,” 75-year-old Barry Hearn, the chief executive of Matchroom Sports, told Telegraph Sport.

There is still no love lost between Warren, from Islington, and Hearn Snr, from Dagenham. They were once cocky, street-wise hustlers who have now become enormously wealthy and respect powerful sports and business figures.

Warren was initially a notary’s clerk and Hearn an accountant. They have never forgotten their humble roots and are passionate workaholics. And winners. Just like their champions. Hearn explains: “I was always a boxing fan, but I wanted to be a sports promoter.

‘Frank is a boxing promoter, and a very good one. We had a different vision.”

Hearn Snr and Frank Warren first met in the 1970s. “We had 2,000 machines in the East End, Frank had cigarettes in pubs and pool tables,” Hearn explains.

‘Frank broke the boxing cartel’

Warren, the more thoroughbred boxing man at the time, was about to take up unlicensed boxing because there was no other option than now.

The Boxing Board of Control recognized only one promotional group, as did the BBC. It meant a stranglehold on the sport. In time, Warren broke the mold and ‘the cartel’ – as they came to be known – and with the help of innovative ITV executives Trevor East and Bob Borroughs, he took licensed boxing to another channel.

“Frank did us all a favor, he broke the cartel,” Hearn told The Telegraph. “ITV brought us together, but it was like HBO putting Bob Arum and Don King together in the US – it didn’t work. And it was never going to work. And yes, we wanted to take each other’s fighters.”

The ITV deal for boxing and snooker was one thing, but both promoters had different ambitions and one channel wasn’t big enough for both. Because their egos at the time were tied to their ambition.

Warren was involved in a huge project with the London Arena in 1989, and when he was shot outside the Barking Theater in 1989, it cost him millions as he recovered, and some of his boxers left to join Hearn’s Matchroom stable.

“But they all came back,” Warren is quick to remind us, and his resume of fighters is indeed extraordinary, from Frank Bruno to Naseem Hamed, from Ricky Hatton to Tyson Fury. There is a feeling that Warren may never have forgiven Hearn Snr for that period, when he shifted his promotional tanks to boxing when Warren – hit by a 9mm bullet from a Luger pistol, which missed Warren’s heart by an inch – lost half a lung lost and parts of his ribs.

However, Warren always survived and was always busy building his boxing empire. Warren explained of Hearn Jr: “Eddie Hearn’s big break came when Barney Francis, the head of Sky Sports, retired from boxing. I created BoxNation and then BT Sport came along and wanted to get into boxing themselves.”

BT Sport, now known as TNT Sports, struck a deal with Warren – a deal that still stands today – and he flew.

“Sky was scared of the broadband war, which is how Eddie ended up at Sky,” Warren explains. Heard of course, then Anthony Joshua and Sky increased the numbers.

Barry Hearn and Eddie HearnBarry Hearn and Eddie Hearn

The Hearn dynasty started with Barry, left, and has been passed on to Eddie, right – Getty Images/Alex Livesey

‘My respect for him has grown – and he is great company’

There is a solidarity between Warren and Eddie Hearn entering this event, a double punch with both men behind the promotion. They do it brilliantly and the double act sells hard.

“Frank and I had never spoken or been in the same room until we came to the first press conference together,” Hearn explains. “My respect for him has grown, and he is also great company.”

Hearn Snr explained his views. “5v5 is fascinating – it makes a lot of money and it’s good for boxing. We want to win. It is real. It’s as if we were back on the street in our thirties. This is about bragging rights. Frank is a great survivor. He has had financial problems. He was shot. He is a survivor of the streets.

“We are billionaires, but I want humiliation. When we are defeated, it hurts. We will fight until the end.

“I respect what Frank has done. It’s just like old times. We’re figuring it out in the parking lot. It doesn’t matter how many millions you have. I don’t think he’ll mind if I say he’s a better boxing promoter. I am a better sports promoter.

“Frank and I are cut from the same cloth. Eddie and George [Warren] thought it was hilarious when me and Frank were in the same room together for the first time in 14 or 15 years, but we were doing fine. The 5v5 sums up the rivalry and I think we will do it again.”

As the two titans of British sports promotion prepare to do battle on very rich foreign soil, Warren, 46 years in the sport, allows himself a smile. “The rivalry works, the promotion works, and we’ve discovered something here that ultimately benefits all of us: the fighters, the fans and the promoters. But it’s no joke that we take this very seriously indeed. I have never been involved in a team event like this and the camaraderie is phenomenal.”

The 5 vs 5 card, Saturday June 1, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

On Saturday night, five of Frank Warren’s Queensberry fighters face five of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom boxers. The

1. Deontay Wilder (Matchroom) vs. Zhilei Zhang (Queensberry) Heavyweight
2. Daniel Dubois (Queensberry) vs. Filip Hrgovic (Matchroom) Heavyweight
3. Hamzah Sheeraz (Queensberry) vs. Austin Williams (Matchroom) Middleweight
4. Nick Ball (Queensberry) vs. Raymond Ford (Matchroom) Featherweight
5. Willy Hutchinson (Queensberry) vs. Craig Richards (Matchroom) Light heavyweight

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