Eddie Hearn says he is so impressed by the set-up for Fight Camp that he could see it becoming an annual event, even after the coronavirus has passed into history.
Hearn’s four-week carnival of boxing in what used to be his back garden on Saturday. A boxing arena has risen on the lawn where Eddie Hearn used to play with his toys as a child. Once the family home, then the headquarters of Matchroom Sport, for four weeks the big house on top of the hill in Brentwood, Essex, has become Fight Camp, Hearn’s attempt to preserve big-time boxing in a world without fans.
While promoters around the world retreated to television studios for their fighting fix, Hearn had a different idea. There will be fireworks, flashing lights and they will play Sweet Caroline – it is the closest, Hearn says, to the huge garden party he never got around to organising in younger days.
But there will be no canned crowd noise. What you will get when the first bell rings is boxing stripped down to the basics.
Hearn let the media in on Wednesday to let them check it out, even though none will be allowed on Saturday night under current regulations of the British Boxing Board of Control. There will not be many souvenirs from the event. Even the boxers’ gloves are set to be thrown away as part of the crisis guidelines.
The set-up is certainly impressive. The canopy and ring would match anything you would see at a stadium fight. So impressed is Hearn, with the set-up, he believes it could have life beyond the pandemic.
“I was just thinking as I was walking around that this could be a yearly thing,” Hearn said, always planning ahead. “You know how much people would pay to get in here? Especially for Whyte v Povetkin. I’ve had people come on to me and say ‘Is there any chance?’ They would pay more than £5,000. There are no barriers, you could sit here with a nice hospitality area with some buckets of beers and champagne. It’s the seat of a lifetime.”
The action begins on Saturday, when Sam Eggington and Ted Cheeseman top a five-bout card, followed, on August 8, by Terri Harper defending her WBC super-featherweight title against Natasha Jonas in the first all-British female world-title contest.
Week three will be headlined by a Commonwealth middleweight title fight between Felix Cash and Jason Welborn, before the climax on August 22, when Dillian Whyte faces Alexander Povetkin and Katie Taylor has a rematch with Delfine Persoon.
Even before the boxers are paid, it will cost more than five times the £200,000 Hearn’s father Barry spent to buy the mansion 36 years ago to stage the event. And Hearn is expecting to take a significant loss, but it is a price he believes is worth paying.
“We had a few media days here and I always thought ‘It would f—ing be unbelievable if we could do some fights there’,” Hearn said.
Hearn was five when his parents moved to Brentwood from nearby Ongar. When he was in his mid-twenties, his parents decided to move to the country, leaving him to remain in the big house alone while it was on the market.
“They took everything out of the house other than my bed, a TV and a sofa in the lounge,” Hearn said. “When mates would come round and there was nothing in any room. Structurally it needed work and needed painting.
“They couldn’t sell the house, so I was here for about two years on my own.”
Eventually Hearn Sr decided to convert the house into an office and move the company headquarters there from Romford.
“When the company moved in, I lived in here while it was an office,” Hearn said. “I used to literally wake up at 8.30, step in the shower and at 8.45 I was at my desk.”
As the sun shone down on Wednesday, Hearn’s dream was becoming a reality, although the view of London in the distance will not be visible from the ring after a marquee was erected on one side of the ring, partly as a wind block.
From Wednesday night, Hearn was in the “bubble”, a nearby hotel where all boxers and officials will be based, after COVID-19 testing, until fight night. He will be ringside on Saturday, although his father, will have to watch from an upstairs room of the house after a recent heart attack.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.