Eddie Hearn hopes to upstage his fellow promoters who have already held boxing shows behind closed doors when he launches the first of at least four ‘Fight Camp’ events in his childhood back garden this weekend.
Frank Warren has kick-started boxing’s return in the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic at London’s BT Sport Studios in recent weeks, while several world champions have had tick-over contests in the United States in empty casinos.
But on Saturday night, Hearn throws open the doors of Matchroom’s headquarters in Brentwood, Essex, which was once the family home, for a bill headlined by domestic light-middleweights Sam Eggington and Ted Cheeseman.
While fans are unable to attend the cards which will be held over the next four Saturdays, Hearn hopes the unique setting and some intriguing showdowns will provide a spectacle for those watching on television.
“We’ve heard all of the puns, ‘it’s Matchroom Square Gardens, it’s Weekend at Hearnies’, whatever you want to call it, but the truth is, what an opportunity for these fighters and what an opportunity for our sport,” Hearn said.
“I’ve seen other people come back: studios, empty casinos, great, and we credit them. We are different. We wanted to make a bang. We wanted to make an impact. We wanted to show you how great the sport of boxing is.
“We’ve come to a position in boxing where we’re now going to see this a lot: putting our fighters in together in fights that we feel are going to give value for money.”
On the undercard, Northern Ireland’s James Tennyson and Wales’ Gavin Gwynne meet for the vacant British lightweight title while Jordan Gill and Reece Bellotti square-off in an eagerly-anticipated featherweight encounter.
Simon Vallily has moved up to heavyweight to challenge the unbeaten Fabio Wardley, while highly-rated light-welterweight Dalton Smith faces his toughest test in his sixth professional fight against Nathan Bennett.
As well as preparing for difficult bouts, the fighters, all of whom tested negative for coronavirus upon their arrival near the venue, have had to follow stringent measures put in place because of the public health crisis.
That includes eating, training, resting and sleeping at a nearby hotel, which they are not allowed to leave until fight night.
Hearn added: “The world has changed in the last few months, and it may have changed forever. Maybe it has changed our sport forever.
“We’re back and what an opportunity for these guys. Maybe this is going to be what it’s like for the next couple of weeks, maybe it’s going to happen for the next couple of months.
“What I do know is ‘Fight Camp’ has changed the dynamics of boxing. The pandemic has changed the dynamics of boxing because now fighters are stepping up quicker. They are realising they have to take their opportunity.”