Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn looks back on the year of boxing, picking out his highlights after a challenging 12 months.
The return of big crowds, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s dominance and massive upsets feature in Hearn’s review of the year.
Well there we have it – 44 shows, 10 different countries, in the middle of a pandemic.
What a year for Matchroom Boxing. We’ve had to really do everything. Shows behind closed doors, international events, deal with changes in testing policy from minute to minute, travel restrictions, last-minute failed Covid-19 tests. It’s been a hell of a ride but I am so proud of our team for delivering what has been our best year yet and a fantastic year for world boxing.
It’s always this time of year when people ask you for your highlights from the past 12 months. To be honest with you 2021 seems like a complete blur. I spent most of it living out of a suitcase travelling from country to country, wherever we were allowed to stage events, and to be really honest the early part of the year was a real challenge, but a challenge we rose to and we were really treated to some huge fights.
It was an iconic moment for us to stage Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s world title defence at the incredible Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Although the opponent wasn’t up to much, to be allowed 15,000 people in such a fantastic stadium was a brilliant moment for us. Especially when international music star J Balvin walked out Canelo in such an unbelievable atmosphere.
In March I witnessed one of the greatest fights I have ever seen live, when Juan Francisco Estrada took on Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in their rematch in Dallas. It was an incredible encounter. Many feel Chocolatito deserved to get the decision but Estrada was given victory by the judges. It sets up a huge trilogy fight that we hope will land in March 2022 in America.
In May we smashed the US boxing attendance record with more than 74,000 at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium as Canelo took one step closer to the undisputed title by fighting Britain’s Billy Joe Saunders. It was a game effort from Billy Joe but a crushing uppercut from Canelo fractured his orbital bone and from that point on it was one-way traffic. That night was one of the best atmospheres I have ever been a part of and a testament to our global team that we could pull off an event of that scale.
At the end of July we announced our game-changing deal with DAZN and launched with a brilliant fight-camp series in our back garden at Matchroom HQ. This time with fans. It is such a unique environment and it kicked up some incredible fights and some brilliant upsets. We really started to see the crowds return with a sold-out Headingley Stadium in Leeds for Josh Warrington v Mauricio Lara. Then in September, a huge moment when Anthony Joshua boxed Oleksandr Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in front of 67,000 people. Although the fight didn’t go our way, it was an event that was watched globally by millions and I know AJ will become a three-time world champion in 2022.
We closed the year in unbelievable style with one of the upsets of the year, in one of the fights of the year, between George Kambosos Jr and Teofimo Lopez. Then there was a brilliant performance from young Devin Haney to beat Jojo Diaz in Las Vegas, a showreel knockout from Conor Benn against Chris Algieri in Liverpool and another fight of the year contender between Joseph Parker and Derek Chisora in Manchester.
With plans moving in place for Dillian Whyte against Tyson Fury and Joshua v Usyk II, I wonder how the heavyweight landscape could change in 2022. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be thrilling to watch and Matchroom will be right at the heart of the action. As we keep our fingers crossed for no further Covid-19 restrictions we get set for our biggest year yet in 2022. More events, more countries, more incredible drama. We aim to bring you the biggest fight nights in world boxing.
All that is left for me to say is have a very merry Christmas and I will see you all in 2022!