Fighting talk: Is Eddie Hearn taking his eye off the ball?

Eddie Hearn (second from right) with Sunderland welterweight Josh Kelly (third from right).
Eddie Hearn (second from right) with Sunderland welterweight Josh Kelly (third from right).
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Eddie Hearn is the equivalent of boxing Marmite.

Most people hate him (especially, it seems, across the pond), the rest... hate him a little less.

I’ve got to say, I think he’s an absolute jewel of the sport. He’s taken boxing to a whole new audience, broken records, made a lot of fighters very rich and made world wide stars of lads who’d still be fighting in leisure centres were they campaigning 30 years ago.

I understand I am in the very small minority when comes to Mr Matchroom Boxing, but even I am struggling to defend Hearn's last few months.

Matchroom and Sky Sports were the partnership who brought proper fight nights, Saturday tear ups you watch with the beers and a takeaway, back on the menu in homes up and down the land. They’ve done it for years.

But where have those shows been in 2019? It’s fair to say it’s been a barren start to the new year so far.

Has Hearn taken his eye off the ball in the UK? Not one show this year has really captured the imagination of the UK fight fans and the reaction to the O2 Arena show, on which Sunderland’s Josh Kelly fights, is testament to that.

Is he stretching himself too thinly with his DAZN USA obligations? Chasing, and signing Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez is all well and good but not everyone will stay up til 5am to watch them, whether they’re free on Sky or not (they’re probably not).

Has he overstretched the Matchroom brand, with European-based branches of the company sprouting up in the last 12 months?

I sincerely hope this is not the case.

It’s important he does not forget the bread and butter. Taking Anthony Joshua away to the US makes absolute sense. The only thing is it should have happened before now.

But with little else to whet the appetite on these shores it’s come at a bad time for UK fight fans who feel shortchanged by the UK’s most high-profile boxer moving to America after his Wembley April 13 fight was scored out.

With more and more fighters going to the US - where I think Kelly will make a big impression - the door is wide open for the next generation to make a name for themselves at what feels like a changing of the guard in UK boxing.

Tony Bellew is gone, so too David Haye, George Groves, James Degale - the likes of Kelly, fellow Matchroom stable fighter Lewis Ritson and even someone like Tommy Ward all have the opportunity to capture the imagination of a fight fanbase that feels like it’s had the rug pulled from underneath its sofa.

I like Hearn, I love the work Matchroom have done, but I feel they need to deliver something special in the UK, because they wouldn’t be where they are today without fans on this side of the pond.