Promoter Eddie Hearn doesn’t think he has egg on his face the way Lennox Lewis has insisted he does.
The Matchroom head and the last undisputed heavyweight champion in boxing went back and forth on social media recently as it relates to the upcoming fight between Hearn’s charge, Anthony Joshua, and former UFC champion Francis Ngannou on March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The matchup is the latest high-profile fight to take place in the oil-producing kingdom, courtesy of one of their powerful bureaucrats, Turki Alalshikh.
Lewis excoriated Hearn for standing behind Joshua vs. Ngannou, especially since Hearn ridiculed WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury for deciding to fight Ngannou, a boxing novice, last October. But the perceived mismatch turned out to be a largely competitive affair, with Ngannou even dropping Fury in the early going. Fury would hang on to win a razor close split decision.
In response to Lewis, Hearn said in a recent interview the charge of hypocrisy for supporting a “crossover” bout between Joshua and Ngannou was not valid because Ngannou, he feels, has now distinguished himself as a worthwhile competitor. But all that is immaterial, Hearn said, because the reason the fight is happening is simply because Alalshikh wanted it. Alalshikh, moreover, wants to pair the winner of Joshua vs. Ngannou with the winner of the upcoming undisputed heavyweight championship between Fury and unified champion Oleksandr Usyk.
“You can’t say that a guy that dropped Fury—and in many eyes’ beat him—is not credible as an opponent,” Hearn told Boxing Social. “I said to Lennox that one of the big reasons we are taking that fight is because we have been told by His Excellency that the winner of that fight fights the winner of Fury-Usyk. So we get a straight shot at undisputed. So if Fury beats Usyk, which I hope he does, and we beat Ngannou, you’ve got self-made the biggest fight arguably in the history of the sport.
“You know that if Fury beats Usyk and AJ beats Ngannou, the whole world is going to go ‘Oh my God, it’s AJ-Fury for undisputed.’ So yes there are rematch clauses and contracts have got to be respected but also you know the vision of His Excellency. He’s going to want to deliver for fans worldwide the biggest fight in our generation and it will be right on a plate in front of him. But Fury has got to beat Usyk first and AJ has got to beat Ngannou. And as we saw with Wilder against Parker, things can happen.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.