Eddie Hearn has shown Deontay Wilder what he has been missing out on all these years

Matt Hobkinson
Eddie Hearn (L) and Deontay Wilder (R)

Eddie Hearn and Deontay Wilder have not always seen eye to eye. So when the ‘Bronze Bomber’ was announced as part of Matchroom Boxing’s ‘5 vs 5’ to take on Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions – eyebrows were raised.

For about the last six years, the pair have engaged in a war of words, primarily due to their differing opinions as to why a fight with Anthony Joshua never materialized.

Wilder claimed that it was Hearn’s fault for the bout falling through, while AJ’s promoter laid blame at the feet of the American heavyweight’s camp.

But the pair have put any bad blood to one side, with Wilder now taking on Zhilei Zhang in a fight that could well be his very last in the sport.

Hearn has joked that they are now “besties”, as he explained the complications of the AJ rivalry around their relationship.

“Obviously we’ve always had the rivalry through AJ, but I got told to sign a heavyweight for the division and I believe Deontay Wilder will bounce back in style,” Hearn told iFL TV ahead of the 5 v 5.

“I have made him my captain and who knows where it goes after this, but we just need to go through Zhilei Zhang.”

As captain, Wilder can earn double points for his team with a win. Draws get you nothing, a win via the judges secures a point, while a knockout brings home two points.

Hearn, therefore, is no doubt looking to Wilder’s fabled right-hand to find the knockout blow against Zhang, something he has done in 42 of the 43 fights he has won.

Hearn explained it best when he gatecrashed a recent interview with Wilder and Title Sports Network. But it was the reaction of the American to the silky-smooth words that came out of the promoter’s mouth that really captured the attention.

“He’s the fighter on the card with the highest profile,” Hearn began. “He’s the most popular fighter, he’s the fighter that has achieved the most in the sport. He’s one of the most exciting fighters on the planet – and more importantly – he’s one of the most feared fighters of all.

“You know when you play the Ryder Cup? You want ‘your guy’ going last, you want Tiger Woods in the last group to win it all.

“We may have to come from behind, we may need Deontay to win by knockout, but I can sit there and go: ‘Go on my man, go and rack up those four points.’

“That’s why I did it. You’ve got other guys, younger guys, more experienced guys – this is a guy who has been around. And he can hold his composure.

“Zhilei Zhang said some bad things tonight so we’re going to f*** him up on Saturday night.”

Hearn’s last point there came in reference to Zhang claiming that Wilder was made Matchroom’s captain in an attempt from the promoter to “kiss his a***”.

But the reality is, albeit just a soundbite, it was yet another example of Hearn’s gift of the gab. Wilder was captivated by every word that came out of his mouth, and who can blame him.

This of course is nothing new to boxing, Hearn has been a master at it for years. In truth, despite Frank Warren’s opinion no doubt, he is the best in the business.

If one hijacked interview wasn’t enough to prove to Wilder what life would be like – or perhaps more hauntingly – could have been like under Hearn, then look no further than the rousing pre-fight team talk he gave to his five fighters.

One by one, Hearn went down the line and built up the drama and tension for each fighter and why this bout means so much to them.

“We’ve come a long way, mate” he says to Craig Richards, “This is your moment, this is your stage…time for you to deliver.”

Turning to Raymond Ford, it goes up a notch. “The best 126-pounder in the world, no doubt. You are about to see this man change his life.”

“Ammo Williams,” he continues. “Everything you have been through to this point, takes you to this moment…You take this guy to pieces.”

“Filip, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me this may be the best heavyweight in the world,” his sights firmly set on Hrgovic. “Your time has come.”

And then he gets to his captain, Wilder. You could hear a pin drop.

“Deontay, we haven’t always got on. But I admire you, I respect you. And as they say, setbacks pave the way for comebacks.

“You are one dangerous, dangerous man. When you destroy this man to my right, Zhilei Zhang, the whole world is going to take notice that you are back.”

Never mind Wilder, I was ready to fight Zhang after that rousing speech. Then two things hit me (no pun intended): 1) What a promoter to have in your corner; and 2) What a shame that this hasn’t happened before.

This is not to take pity on Wilder’s career. His trilogy with Tyson Fury is one for the ages. It is simply a case of ‘what could have been’ if the pair had teamed up.

Eddie Hearn’s promotional skills selling one of the biggest punchers in the heavyweight division? Sign me up. Sadly though, the 38-year-old is inching closer to retirement.

Should Wilder get the job done over Zhang, a fight with AJ would certainly be a lot easier to arrange now. However, Messrs Hrgovic, Dubois, Usyk and Fury may just tell him to get in line.

It may only be for one fight, but Hearn backing Wilder has been a joy to watch, listen to and engage with.

Let’s hope Wilder delivers the knockout blow we know he’s capable of. It could just prove to be the start of a brilliant partnership in his twilight years.

For all the biggest results and upcoming fights this year, check out Dexerto’s 2024 boxing schedule.