“This will go down in history. The most iconic venue in the world is Madison Square Garden, we will be the new garden.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn has revealed plans to stage unique boxing shows in July and August in the back garden of the house he grew up in so that the sport can return from the coronavirus shutdown.
Hearn believes creating ‘Matchroom Fight Camp’ will form “the biggest” challenge of his career but is intent on putting live boxing back on UK television screens for the first time since the sport was halted in March.
“I want to be the first but I want to get it right,” Hearn, 40, told BBC Sport. “I don’t want to be the first with a bad product.”
‘A worthwhile financial disaster’
Hearn’s planned move will provide testing for Covid-19 and a week-long takeover of a hotel where fighters can self-isolate until test results become known. A purpose-built gym will be created at the hotel for competitors to train and the entire show will adhere to guidelines set out by the British Boxing Board of Control, which has seen his proposal.
Four fight nights, each featuring five bouts, will be held on consecutive weekends.
The proposed venue – known as Mascalls in Brentwood, Essex – was once the Hearn family home but is now the headquarters of the Matchroom Sport organisation.
Roughly 90 people will need to attend but with fans ruled out in order to ensure social distancing, Hearn says the plans focus on “legacy” rather than turning a profit.
“We will be testing up to 100 people for the week, that’s a cost of £25-30,000,” added Hearn, who promotes unified heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua.
“The hotel, a gym for training, changing rooms to build, you’re well into seven figures. It will be a financial disaster.
“It’s a short-term investment for us to make sure the momentum we have built for 10 years is maintained. We have to come back with a bang, safely and under the guidance.
“It’s about the safety of the fighters, making sure the officials and broadcast teams are protected. We will be learning on the job but we cannot afford to make mistakes.”
‘Championship fights but adapt your prep’
The British Boxing Board of Control’s guidance that events could not initially contain championship fights when boxing returns also looks set to be amended. Hearn hopes to stage bouts for titles and moves are being made to ensure the necessary officials and procedures are in place for them to happen.
The fight nights will be available on Sky Sports, though Hearn hopes to make Dillian Whyte’s heavyweight bout with Alexander Povetkin part of a fourth and final show that would likely be pay-per-view.
A potential obstacle to the move is any tightening of the government guidance on dealing with the spread of coronavirus. However, Hearn is hopeful boxers will be able to spar in the coming weeks, allowing them to be ready for his garden shows.
“Your preparation as a fighter probably won’t be as good as it would be before,” Hearn added. “Accept it, be the best you can be, be ready and take your opportunity. Preparation is important but sometimes it can’t be perfect.”
Hearn to follow ‘trailblazer’ White
Hearn has shared frequent messages in recent weeks with UFC president Dana White, who was criticised in some quarters for delivering the first major US sporting event since March when he staged UFC 249 behind closed doors. last weekend.
White received a phone call and words of praise from US president Donald Trump in the aftermath but Hearn stresses that safety and quality are more important than being the first to deliver big-time boxing in the UK.
“It’s not just about the timing,” he added. “Life is all about challenges. We are coming out of a devastating period. If we don’t have enough people now who want to get to work, fight the fight, economically and in business, we will be in bigger problems going forward.
“Of all the challenges I have had from Wembley Stadium to Saudi Arabia and Madison Square Garden, this is the biggest. That excites me.”