Viewers must “fall in love” with a new normal if boxing is to avoid “big trouble”, says Eddie Hearn.
Promoter Hearn has not held a UK show since 7 March as boxing paused because of coronavirus – but he is preparing to stage fights in his childhood back garden for the first time.
Those boxing have faced safety measures all week to be part of the first of four ‘Fight Camp’ garden events.
“The long term damage for the sport and economy is significant,” said Hearn.
“This may be the new norm. If these shows don’t rate well and the viewer doesn’t fall in love with this new norm, then we are going to be in big trouble.”
Welcome to ‘the bubble’
Hearn, like other promoters, faces the challenge of staging fights between big names but without income from gate receipts while the sport remains behind closed doors. The last of the four shows, on 22 August, will be pay-per-view in order to fund the purses of heavyweights Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin.
His first event – staged at his Essex childhood home, now the headquarters of his family Matchroom Sport business – has called on fighters to eat, sleep, train and not leave a ‘bubble’ at a nearby hotel this week.
Fighters arrived with scales, fridges, heaters, microwaves and cooking utensils for their rooms. Each tested negative for the virus upon arrival and will not be allowed near what Hearn says is a “spectacular” garden fight arena until Saturday.
“Every time I am walking around, I am adding up the numbers and thinking when the cost and the bill comes in, I am not going to like what I see,” Hearn told BBC Sport. “It’s probably the proudest moment of my career so far.
“We are trying to create something that when you’re old you look back on and say: ‘Do you remember those shows in the garden? that was mental.'”
British titles and ‘daunting’ weight gain
British light-middleweight Ted Cheeseman, who spoke candidly to BBC Sport early on in the coronavirus lockdown about overcoming gambling addiction, he tops the bill against domestic rival Sam Eggington.
“Through lockdown, I’ve had no distractions and being in the hotel is perfect for me as I’m usually running around like a lunatic dropping tickets off,” said Cheeseman.
Only five fights are allowed on the bill as per safety rules introduced by the British Boxing Board of Control. Also on that bill, Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson takes on Welshman Gavin Gwynne for the British lightweight title.
Highly-touted featherweight Jordan Gill takes on English counterpart Reece Bellotti in his first fight since discovering he was suffering with thyroid disease late in 2019.
“I thought I’d never box again,” said 26-year-old Gill, who has one defeat in 25 bouts.
“It turned my boxing life and my personal life upside down. I was struggling with my training, my heart rate was going through the roof. I was sweating at night, I was constantly hungry and I had no energy.
“I was losing weight constantly, but being out of shape and losing muscle. I was eating no end but not putting any weight on. Then my thyroid gland went under-active and I wasn’t eating at all but putting loads and loads of weight on – for a boxer, that’s quite daunting.”
Also on the card, English heavyweights Fabio Wardley and Simon Vallily have exchanged frosty words, while unbeaten Sheffield lightweight Dalton Smith faces his stiffest test since turning professional against Liverpool’s Nathan Bennett.