NEW YORK -- Armed with $1 billion in rights fees over eight years from the Perform Group's sports streaming service DAZN, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn had a message for American boxers on Thursday afternoon.
"This is open season for fighters in the U.S.," he said at a news conference to announce the unprecedented boxing-rights deal. "If you're out there, if you don't have a promotional contract, if you're a world-class fighter, we want you. If you're a world champion no more fighting once a year. No more waiting on your date. We've got the dates, the money and the platform to give you regular championship contests."
Hearn's Matchroom Boxing has for many years been the No. 1 boxing promoter in the United Kingdom, but he has recently begun promoting events in the United States since signing middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs last fall. Now Hearn is all-in on the U.S, market with the backing of Perform Group, whose DAZN (pronounced "Da Zone") sports streaming service, which is already available in places such as Japan, Germany and Canada, will launch in the U.S. in June.
The boxing events are due to begin in September, Hearn said. His deal is for two years minimum with an option for six more.
"A groundbreaking deal in the history of the sport," Hearn said.
The deal calls for Matchroom Boxing USA to put on 16 events per year in the U.S., which Hearn termed as "12 massive shows and four absolute monsters."
Those 16 shows will go along with the 16 cards a year Hearn promotes in the U.K. on broadcast partner Sky Sports. All 32 cards, plus the four or five cards Hearn has on Sky Box Office pay-per-view each year in the U.K., will be part of the DAZN boxing offerings in the U.S. for a monthly subscription fee that has not yet been announced, but one that won't require a contract.
"We need to get this out there because I am so excited to shake up the world of boxing in America. You've seen us do it in the U.K.," Hearn said. "Recently, we made our move into boxing in America, but there were certain things that I needed to be able to take boxing here to a new level, to build a stable that is unrivaled. I needed a platform that would give us a huge volume of dates -- 16 dates starting in September, per year, for eight years. Then I needed a lot of money.
"I needed artillery and we're dangerous with artillery, let me tell you. And now we've got it, $1 billion over eight years. We have by far the biggest rights budget in the sport of boxing and we're going to be ultra-competitive. We're going to put on the greatest shows with the greatest talent. This is a brand new era for boxing in the U.S. We're here and we mean business."
Now Hearn needs talent. He has most of the top fighters in the U.K., including Anthony Joshua, Tony Bellew, Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Scott Quigg and a slew of quality prospects, but he's looking to sign top Americans. Most of the best talent not signed to a promoter are the fighters with adviser Al Haymon, and Hearn made no secret he was after Haymon fighters such as Deontay Wilder, Jermall and Jermell Charlo, Jarrett Hurd, Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Mikey Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares.
Hearn said he was able to make the deal without committing his company's biggest asset, unified heavyweight world titleholder Joshua, whose American broadcast contract with Showtime expired following his title unification victory over Joseph Parker in March.
"These guys want Joshua," Hearn said. "Our annual budget is probably more than what HBO and Showtime are combined. We've been talking to a lot of fighters."
Hearn said the reason he wanted to unveil the plans now even though DAZN hasn't yet formally announced its arrival in the U.S. and the boxing won't begin until September is because "I'm talking to all these fighters. We're launching in September. They want to see what we're doing. They're all in this race."
Joining Hearn for the announcement was former ESPN president John Skipper, who on Monday joined Perform Group as executive chairman, and Perform Group CEO Simon Denyer.
"I'm excited about working with Matchroom; we share the same passion and vision for reigniting boxing in the U.S. and it's time for DAZN to provide an exciting new platform for these great events," Denyer said. "It's a better deal for everyone -- especially fight fans."
Hearn said each card would be streamed in its entirety and would include build-up shows surrounding each event. For fans in the U.K. who watch Hearn's events on Sky Sports, it will continue to televise the Matchroom Boxing events but will also add the U.S.-based cards to its schedule at no additional cost.
"This is not we're coming to f--- everybody. This is we're going to have a lot of fun and we have money never seen before in the sport of boxing," Hearn said. "I can't fail. If I fail here, I'm a disgrace. That's the way I see it."