Hearn and Warren discuss working together and how Saudi influence could benefit British boxing

Turki Alalshikh has been responsible for bringing two of British boxing’s leading and feuding promoters, Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, together. 

Alalshikh is bringing top-level boxing to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the sport serving as a prominent fixture during Riyadh Season. 

Warren was the first to link up with the influential Alalshikh as WBC heavyweight title holder Tyson Fury flew into the Saudi desert on October 28 and became embroiled in a turbulent fight against former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. 

Hearn, although no stranger to being involved in taking fights to the Kingdom, worked alongside Warren a month later on the “Day of Reckoning” event, with Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder against Otto Wallin and Joseph Parker, respectively. 

Hearn and Warren recently sat with Steve Bunce for TNT Sports and talked about their rivalry, which is now becoming a working relationship due to Alalsheikh putting the British promoters together. 

Matchroom boss Hearn says working with a promotional rival is a refreshing experience.

“It is refreshing,” Hearn told Bunce. “Once you get over that first hurdle and have a couple of dinners together, it’s been good. George [Warren’s son] has been the mature one, bringing two naughty boys into a room and telling us to stop it [the rivalry and to work together] and remind us that we have got a great opportunity for boxing, our fighters and our companies.

“Once we broke the seal [of a willingness to work together], we should have really done this a long time ago in all honesty. It has taken His Excellency, who could not care less [ about our rivalry] and told us to move the sport forward.”

Warren echoed the sentiment and cited his son, George, as a vital figure in thawing out previous resentment.

“George has been the conduit, they’re in the same age group more or less,” Warren said. “So they’ve been talking on a regular basis, and that’s been good; I’m loving it.”

“We are both boxing nuts. We are delivering good fights between us both and His Excellency. We are doing something completely unique which has never been done before, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.”

Hearn said Alalshikh wants the biggest and best entertainment possible. 

“This is not a guy [Alalshikh] asking what he has got to do and how to bring boxing to Saudi Arabia. He is telling us that he likes this guy and that guy, and how about this guy versus that guy,” Hearn explained. 

“We are looking at the undercards, and traditionally, we would look at an undercard as a business and say, ‘That’s enough’ [referring to financial costs]. He is the opposite; he wants more and more, and that is amazing for fight fans.”

Warren added, “He is a boxing nut, and he watches everything, every fight.”

The promoters had considered meeting during the pandemic in what interviewer Bunce described as a ‘summer of love.’ However, the proposal never came to fruition as Hearn and Warren further explained their reasons as to why the pair have not worked willingly together previously.

“I got covid, and we just never got round to it,” Hearn explained. 

“We needed an excuse to do it [work together], but in reality, we shouldn't have needed an excuse. 

“However, we have a job to do for our broadcasters. So Frank has got a stable of talent which he needs to deliver for his broadcaster and vice versa. Historically it has been very difficult to crossover, now, this [working with Alalshikh] is too big for it now not to crossover and work together. 

“We have broadcasters working together, promoters and in the past, the competition has stopped us from making fights, but it also made us very ambitious to do as well as we can.

“We wanted to do bigger and better [than Matchroom],” Warren added. “There is more pressure from the broadcasters. DAZN in the case of Eddie and me with TNT to deliver to them. I didn’t want them or me to be left behind. 

Warren believes he and Hearn had to drop their egos to come together to deliver for everyone thanks to the opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

“From my perspective collectively, it is such an exciting thing to be involved in,” said Warren. “You want to be involved in it; you don’t want to screw it up. 

“Of course, you are going to have fall outs in boxing, but boxing is no different than any other high-end industry. You always want the best for yourself and your own company. What we have had to do is park up our own egos a bit and just get on with it.”

Hearn believes that he and Warren can take the sport to a new level and evolve the sport while acknowledging that the competition between the two promoters is the reason why, in his opinion, British boxing is in a good place. 

“I have been promoting for 13 years and obviously Frank a lot longer,” Hearn admitted. “Now that we are working together, and when you do think about it [the Hearn/Warren relationship], it is quite mad.”

“However, the reason why British boxing is in such a great place is because we [Matchroom] are competitive towards each other. I did not want him to win and he did not want me to win, so we are both working and growing, and I don’t think British boxing would be in the position it is in if Frank and I did not have that competitive competition.

“But now it is time to evolve and try to take the sport to the next level. We are already talking about Queensberry vs. Matchroom nights, but there are so many opportunities out there for us both.”

Warren agreed that future cooperation will occur and dismissed concerns from Bunce that the Saudi influence could force neglect to the sport domestically in the UK. 

“There will be stuff in Britain, but look back to my era with Mickey Duff, when a fighter made the big time and wanted to make big money, he had to go to the US,” Warren continued. “The difference now is you are not going to see those fighters boxing five or six hours behind [UK-US time zone difference] and staying up till 5-6am to watch the fights; you will get them at primetime in Saudi Arabia. 

“In the meantime, we are still going to do our stuff in the U.K. and deliver for our partners and build towards the future.” 

Hearn concluded that without Alalshikh’s influence, fights such as Fury vs Usyk and Bivol vs Beterbiev would not happen, adding that he was the only available option to agree and sign for these major fights to take place.

“Without them [Saudi’s], I dont think you would have got Fury vs Usyk,” Hearn suggested. “I don't think you would have got Bivol vs Beterbiev.”

“If you are a fight fan, do you want to see these fights or not? This is the only way you are going to see these fights happening. 

“However, we have got to work hard for British boxing. I know for both of us it is not the case of saying cheerio to Britain. We know business is good for us all, but we both need to continue that investment in our fighters for our broadcasters. 

“Do not think we are not under pressure back home, we are."