Hearn pledges to keep promoting major fights in the UK despite Saudi Arabia's riches

Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn said he remains committed to staging significant fights in the UK and The Republic of Ireland, despite the lure of Saudi Arabia and its vast fortunes.

The emergence of Turki Al-Sheikh and the Riyadh Season cycle of events, which runs from September-March, has had an instant impact on boxing, which has seen the likes of Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, and Tyson Fury head to the Middle East.

Al-Sheikh has demonstrated an ability to bring people around the table, settle differences, and work towards an objective. Al-Sheikh was able to bring unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk and WBC world champion Tyson Fury together and secure an undisputed heavyweight title encounter set for February 17th in the Kingdom following bitter negotiations across the opening six months of 2023 between the pair.

Al-Sheikh has even brought Hearn and his domestic promotional competitor Frank Warren into a healthy working relationship, albeit for Al-Sheikh’s benefit.

Late last week, it was confirmed that Anthony Joshua would return in March and will face former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (0-1) in Riyadh, which sees British boxing’s most financially lucrative fighter return to Saudi Arabia in back-to-back fights following his successful night against Otto Wallin on December 23.

Despite the seeming pull of the Saudi finances, Hearn maintains he will attempt to secure significant fights for the UK market, and keep the popularity of the sport which boxing enjoys in the UK from declining.

“We have to make sure that major fights happen in England, Ireland, wherever, closer to home,” Hearn told iFL TV. “Whether that’s [Katie] Taylor-[Chantelle] Cameron III, whether that’s [Leigh] Wood-[Josh] Warrington, whether that’s [Chris] Eubank-[Conor]Benn, we have to make sure [fights take place in the UK].

“The opportunities to stage major fights in Saudi Arabia are there. The cards that we are working on at the moment are incredible. But we do understand that this is our main market. The UK is our main market. We have to make sure that we keep the profile of the sport raised in our country and we do that by great fight nights but also mega great fight nights as well. That’s important.”

Despite the rise of Al-Sheikh and the Riyadh Season, Hearn still needs to be clarified on what the long-term strategy entails for the Saudi Arabians but expects more major fights to be agreed upon and held in Saudi Arabia.

“During that period, what is September to March, that’s a huge six-month period where we’ve already had Fury-Ngannou, Joshua-Wallin on the Day of Reckoning card, Fury against Usyk, and Joshua [vs. Ngannou] in March,” Hearn continued.

“So that’s a six-month run. And I think it’s only going to get bigger as we go into the next Riyadh season. What they will do outside of that I don’t know. That’s their strategy to unfold.”