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Boxing set to return to the garden – Eddie Hearn’s garden

Anthony Cocks

Australian-based boxing journalist Anthony Cocks has been covering the sport for over 15 years for various print and online publications. He refuses to believe that Roberto Duran ever lost to Tommy Hearns and says that Jeff Fenech would destroy Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on the same night.

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Eddie Hearn has revealed ambitious plans to restart boxing in his own backyard.

The Matchroom Boxing boss, who lives in Essex, outlined his blueprint in an interview with Sportsmail.

“Financially this will be painful for us but after the momentum we have worked so hard to build over the past 10 years, I’m not going to let boxing just dribble back,” Hearn said. “While other guys go with arenas and empty studios, ours will look very different.

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“Just imagine it. It is summer, the house is all lit up, you can see Canary Wharf in the distance and fireworks are going off. Then over the hill walk Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin for a massive tear up on my lawn.

“World championship boxing in my garden? Oh, go on then.”

The plan would see four cards of five fights each spread across 28-days.

“We cannot just bring boxing back with a dark studio,” Hearn continued. “We have built our product on the razzmatazz, the sexiness and the drama. It has all been about building that moment for a fight, so we cannot afford to just bring people out like a gameshow.

“We want to create a gladiatorial environment that will not only ensure compelling viewing but will also ensure fighters can perform at the highest level.”

There are still a lot of moving parts involved contingent on the approval of the British Boxing Board of Control, Brentwood council and the relevant sanctioning bodies.

“It is a huge mission. We are going to turn our headquarters here into an outdoor venue for live boxing, with a full canopy in the middle of the garden and the ring overlooking London,” Hearn said.

“We are building changing rooms for the fighters, setting up a space for a ring walk, and figuring out how we can do everything you need for this kind of production with as few people as possible.

“We are in talks with a nearby hotel about taking control of it for each of the weeks.

“The way it will work is everyone involved – the fighters, their teams, the broadcasters – will go into the hotel on Tuesday and the fighter and their team will go to a testing facility at the hotel. You will go in, get tested, be handed a room key and go straight to your room, where you will wait until you get the result of the test.

“The tests are comprehensive and they take 24 hours, so the fighter will stay in their room until they get a call from our doctors, likely on the Wednesday, with their results. If they are positive, they will leave the hotel immediately. If they are not, they are able to leave their room and take part in the obligations of fight week, all with social distancing.

“Everyone involved in the show, from top to bottom, will have to go through that process before they are allowed on to our premises.

“In terms of fight-week promotion, that is the other side of the challenge. How do you do the media around it? Obviously we cannot have dozens of journalists turning up and sitting shoulder to shoulder for a presser and a weigh-in like normal.

“So we need to decide how it will go – it is likely that Zoom interviews and social media live streams with the fighters and journalists will be the new norm, and pumping out clips of the fighters around the clock, building up to the weigh-ins on the grounds on Fridays and the fights on Saturdays.”

Hearn says fighting outside will alleviate some boxers’ concern about the coronavirus.

“I just feel like everyone seems a lot more comfortable in an outside environment at the moment. To do a contact sport in a studio or a confined gym with everyone sweating about, isn’t great. This feels cleaner and safer and it will look sensational, with the drones flying over the premises.

“It will give the fighters that big event feel. The numbers will be limited but the drama will not – there will be pyrotechnics and fireworks with a big mansion in the background, looking out over London.

“It won’t be great for the grass but hopefully it will be very good for boxing.”

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