The Beltline: Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn have turned from fierce rivals into boxing’s very own Ant and Dec

By Elliot Worsell

GIVE a man a dog and there will be a limit to the things the man can get the dog to do, regardless of the animal’s obedient nature and its inherent desire to please. Give the man a treat, however, and there are very few things the dog will not do in order to earn this treat.

This is something you will see play out in countless homes and parks up and down the country and it is also something we are currently seeing happen with boxing promoters in Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it is suddenly now, after years of trying and typically failing to give fans what they want, boxing promoters are, with a little help, finally delivering and making up for lost time.

“But why now?” you may ask. Well, in answer to that, I would submit this: because at last they can smell the treat in their owner’s pocket. At last, having wanted for so long to be rewarded astronomically for their efforts, that is exactly what is happening; which in turn explains why they are now content to offer their paw, drop flat on their belly, and roll over at the behest of the man with the deepest pockets and the largest collection of treats.

The man, in this case, is the ambitious Turki Alalshikh, without doubt the most powerful force in boxing today. Known to many as “His Excellency”, Alalshikh has taken the sport by the scruff of its neck in recent months and given it a thorough shake until all it has for him are puppy-dog eyes and a somewhat pathetic whimper; a sort of “please help me” cry. He has, in the process, made cheerleaders – at best, superfluous agents – of big-name promoters and inadvertently undermined the very role, showing just how easy it is to call yourself a boxing promoter (if, of course, you have the money to get things done) in 2024. As if a boy playing a game, Alalshikh has brought the idealism of an outsider to a stale and cynical sport and simultaneously enhanced and emasculated the so-called big boys. Instead of offering excuses, he has simply come in, flashed the cash, and said, “Why not?” He has also shown a knowledge of the sport, an interest in making good fights, and a disdain for influencers in boxing rings, all of which is music to the ears of fight fans perhaps otherwise confused and dismayed by recent changes.

For those actively involved in the sport, meanwhile, it feels a bit like a lesson, or a telling off. Promoters like Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, for instance, have done remarkable things both in and for the sport over the years, yet will now know what it means to be truly powerful. Now, rather than fight for power, which is what they did when competing against each other in the minor leagues, they find themselves accepting their limitations, ceding, and rebranding themselves as boxing’s Ant and Dec just to survive. Now, wisely, they together compete for their owner’s affections and, should he ask for it, think nothing of sniffing the other’s behind if it’s a trick deemed worthy of reward.

Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren agree to a bit of “five on five” in Saudi Arabia

The latest trick asked of them, by the way, is an interesting one; most unexpected. It requires neither of them to hold anyone’s hand or look lovingly into one another’s eyes but is something far more daring and exciting than that. Sexier, too. “I want to see Eddie Hearn vs. Frank Warren,” said Alalshikh, the man in control of the treats, at a recent press conference in London. “Five on five!”

Until the mention of “five on five” you would have been forgiven for thinking Alalshikh, having lulled them both into a false sense of security, now wanted to see Warren and Hearn do battle in the ring. Not only that, given Alalshikh invariably gets what he wants, there is every chance, too, that Warren and Hearn, if asked, would have happily gloved up and fought on March 8, the night Anthony Joshua has a boxing match against former UFC champion Francis Ngannou.

However, by mentioning “five on five” Al-Sheikh introduced to proceedings a far more tantalising prospect. By mentioning “five on five” what he was suggesting was that Warren choose five of his boxers and Hearn choose five of his and that both promoters then match these boxers on one night, same bill. In other words, he was bringing to the table something British boxing fans have been desperate to see for a long time only to always be told that the sport’s politics would forever prevent fights between promotional rivals.

That, for Alalshikh, is no stumbling block, nor any excuse. In fact, rather than merely propose the idea of Warren’s five vs. Hearn’s five, he even had them shake hands on it, and sign off on it, meaning it will likely come to fruition at some point in 2024.

In light of this, and in light of how easy it is for him to get them to jump, you have to then wonder what else the indomitable Alalshikh can get his two favourite promoters to do. You also start to wonder what can be achieved in more general terms, what with so many treats to go around and so many starving dogs.

Turki Alalshikh (Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

#Beltline #Frank #Warren #Eddie #Hearn #turned #fierce #rivals #boxings #Ant #Dec

Leave a Reply