Boxing

Hearn Reaping Benefit from War in Ukraine

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Although promoter Eddie Hearn has given all the prerequisite lip service about the tragedies brought on by the conflict in Ukraine, business is business.

The Matchroom Boxing bossman stands to gain the most from Ukrainian boxing stars Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko serving in the effort against the Russian invasion and, now, he’s pressing to take advantage of his leverage.

About a week ago, rumor had it that former unified world lightweight champ Lomachenko was seeking permission to leave the battleground in his native country to train for an already agreed upon bout with current unified lightweight champ George Kambosos Jr. in June.

Just a couple days after that, however, it was confirmed that Lomachenko would pass on the Kambosos fight and remain in Ukraine to help in the defense of his country.

That would open the door to Hearn-promoted WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney, who was reportedly offered the Kambosos fight following Lomachenko’s withdrawal. As is usually the case these days in boxing, though, there’s a holdup in the proceedings and a dispute as to who’s holding things up.

On a recent edition of The DAZN Boxing Show, Hearn claimed that “this [Kambosos-Haney] deal should’ve been done” and that he’s not sure what the thought process is behind Team Kambosos’ handling of negotiations. Hearn also not-so-subtly put a time limit on things, saying that Haney will have to be moving on if things aren’t wrapped up soon in the Kambosos talks.

Without Lomachenko as a possibility and with Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis already signed for other bouts, Haney is the only “big” fight option left for Australia’s 3-belt champ. Hearn knows this and is using that leverage to force a deal to be made. And, of course, the war in Ukraine, as it pertains to Lomachenko’s availability, is part of that leverage.

In the case of 3-belt world heavyweight champ, Oleksandr Usyk, Hearn-promoted former champ Anthony Joshua has contractually mandated next dibs on the Ukranian titlist.

Usyk, who beat Joshua for the belts back in September, has also joined the war effort in his native country and is currently far from active duty in the world of professional boxing. That doesn’t matter much to Hearn, who’s pushing for a late June rematch for his fighter and is threatening to walk away from the bout in favor of an interim match if that June date can’t be confirmed soon.

“I do think Usyk will take that fight next, we’re looking at the end of June for that fight, and that’s when the fight has GOT to take place by,” Eddie Hearn said. “If he’s not ready, we’ll push for an interim fight.”

Again using a Ukrainian’s war-related absence from the world fight scene, Hearn appears to be pushing for an edge for Joshua against a likely distracted, ill-prepared Usyk or, possibly, for an interim title belt or two (or three) while Usyk is inactive.

To be fair, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in boxing passing on the opportunities presented to Hearn at the moment. But that’s damning with faint praise as the boxing world is not exactly filled with Boy Scouts or noble promoters/businessmen willing to take a loss for the greater good.

But, business is business.

It’s just a little bit hard to stomach when one sees boxing business being conducted with the tragic, absolutely bloody chaos of war used as leverage.

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com