Fighting talk: Eddie Hearn on criticism over Benn’s failed drug test

Promoter and Matchroom Sport chairman Eddie Hearn spoke about riding out the storm of criticism he’s received (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

The Matchroom Sport chairman discusses Dillian Whyte’s future, Conor Benn fallout and how he really doesn’t want to be boxing’s ‘Dr Evil’.

You didn’t work with Dillian Whyte for his defeat by Tyson Fury in April. But were you always going to reunite?

We’ve always done fight-by-fight with Dillian, not because that’s all he’s ever wanted to do, but certain fighters we have that relationship with and we’ve promoted most of his career, certainly the important part of it.

We lost the purse bid (for Fury v Whyte) but we never stopped talking. This is his next fight, everybody made him offers, he chose to go with us.

The Franklin fight was one we looked at previously and we like it – he’s an unbeaten American, good fighter, pretty well rated on the US scene, good feet, fast hands.

It’s actually quite a dangerous fight for Dillian as people think he should breeze through it, they don’t really know about Jermaine Franklin but he’s a good heavyweight.

What did you think of Whyte’s stoppage defeat to Fury?

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I thought he massively underperformed. I feel not having us around and that sort of swagger, he walked to the ring like an opponent and his performance reflected that.

Dillian’s best asset is he’s af***ing dangerous man and he puts the fear of Christ in people. I felt like he was too friendly.

Tyson kind of friendlied him off, even with the hug at the weigh-in. That’s not Dillian Whyte. He’s edgy and that’s what makes him a great fighter because he’s a hard, hard man. When he’s in battle, he is very difficult to beat. I didn’t see that in the Fury fight.

Was it the right move for him to switch to renowned American trainer Buddy McGirt?

The link-up will really benefit him. I feel he needs a more experienced lead in that corner and that comes from Buddy McGirt. He’s a very good trainer, very experienced and I think you’ll see a lot of improvements from Dillian in this fight.

At 34, what does Whyte want from the rest of his career?

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He just wants big fights. Some people fight for money, some for legacy, some people love fighting because they love to fight and he’s one of those guys.

The winner of the Franklin fight is probably the frontrunner to take on Anthony Joshua in the first fight of 2023. He wants to fight Deontay Wilder, he would love another crack at Fury, he wants [Oleksandr] Usyk, [Joe] Joyce, [Daniel] Dubois.

You’ve got four or five fights left, really, and he just wants to face all of those guys but he needs to have a big win against Franklin and he needs to impress and show he has a lot left.

So this is a play-off for the chance to fight Anthony Joshua in 2023?

Anthony Joshua's is set to make a come back next year (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Anthony Joshua’s is set to make a come back next year (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

AJ’s going to come back in late February, or he will wait for a bigger fight. If he waits, he’ll go straight into the Dillian Whyte fight. If not, we’ll still do that but in the summer after AJ’s fight in February. AJ’s not interested in a couple of knock-over jobs, he’s never done it. They all say the same thing: ‘Give me the biggest fight out there.’ Franklin’s fighting to beat Dillian and then face AJ.

How much of a blow was it to Joshua that the Fury clash didn’t happen again?

He accepted it and in his head that was the fight he was having… that fell through. What about Wilder? What about Dillian? He may only have three years left, so he’s thinking, ‘Eight, nine, ten really good fights’.

MORE : David Haye backs fully fit Dillian Whyte to give Anthony Joshua more trouble in 2023 rematch

MORE : Anthony Joshua keen on Deontay Wilder fight but Eddie Hearn puts Dillian Whyte as frontrunner

Have you spoken to Fury’s next opponent, Derek Chisora, someone you used to promote, ahead of their December 3 meeting?

I have – they were negotiating that fight while we were negotiating with Fury for AJ. That made me think: ‘How serious are they?’. That fight’s taken a huge amount of stick but Fury wanted to fight Manuel (Mahmoud) Charr and you saw the response so he chose Derek and he will give it everything, although he is a massive underdog.

Are you trying to make boxing truly global in the coming years?

I like to feel people appreciate what we’re trying to do for the sport and when you come to a new territory, the love you get because they’re not used to it, is refreshing.

The best thing that happened to me is I had a show in Australia, a show in Mexico, then Abu Dhabi. I felt like a hero – in England I felt like a villain because of the Conor Benn situation and that’s soul-destroying.

All of a sudden you fall back in love with the sport again in places like Abu Dhabi – when I started out, I was a breath of fresh air, now I’m controlling boxing, I’m Dr Evil and I prefer the other ( side). I like pats on the back, everybody does.

Benn’s failed drug test saw the Chris Eubank Jr showdown called off last month. What do you think about the criticism you’ve come in for following that saga?

Conor Benn training inside the ring (Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

Conor Benn training inside the ring (Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

Integrity is so important and respect for the sport, people see a little bit of the work I put in.

I couldn’t be more in love with the sport of boxing but the accusation is that you don’t care about the sport and that does hurt, especially from people who know nothing about boxing.

There are so many agendas – it’s a world of hypocrisy. All these righteous people want to give me criticism but you just have to ride it out. We’re coming back.

So has this been your toughest time in the sport?

Probably. Everything escalates. Other people wouldn’t get as much stick because they don’t have my profile.

How does drug testing in boxing in this country get cleared up?

I feel like we’re the ones out there pushing testing – we’re paying for it. The board does not recognize Vada testing. It’s a reporting agency and the board is governed by Ukad and Conor passed the Ukad tests.

If we’re paying for it, surely it’s to everyone’s benefit there is additional testing so it’s time for them to make a clear statement and say, ‘We acknowledge Vada testing as well as Ukad’.

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