Barry Hearn has been a leading light in sports promotion for decades, a legendary figure in sports as diverse as boxing, darts, snooker and fishing, and part of that success has come thanks to learning from promoters in even more varied fields.
As chairman of the PDC and WST, Hearn still runs darts and snooker from his Essex base, while his son Eddie has become one of the most influential men in boxing, gratefully receiving the keys to the kingdom from his dad.
Hearn senior has seen it all in his specialist subject and has not been afraid to incorporate ideas from elsewhere, notably from the world of professional wrestling and the mind of Vince McMahon.
The Englishman is a fan of the American’s work and they share a flair for showmanship in the events they put on.
There may be precious few similarities between the Royal Rumble and the World Snooker Championship, but Hearn is not afraid to admit he has taken ideas from McMahon and placed them into the sports he runs, even including fishing.
‘I think certainly WWE has influenced me,’ Hearn told Metro.co.uk. ‘I invented Fish’O’Mania the day after a Wrestlemania, that’s why it is called Fish’O’Mania, I thought ‘mania’ is such a good word.
‘A lot of my walk-ons that we brought to boxing early doors and subsequently to the darts, were inspired by WWE.
‘Not so much UFC, that inspires more a digital, younger market through commercialisation.
‘From a show projection, the leader was WWE, It was families having a good time and they were promoting something that wasn’t even real so it was brilliant, it was genius.
‘They got everyone so involved and I’m a big fan of personality-building in your stars, which is part of their vision, and also the crowd being part of the show, which follows their vision.’
Hearn is in the mould of McMahon and UFC president Dana White in that he is front and centre, very visibly promoting his product and becoming as recognisable as the competitors themselves.
It is something he has passed on to his son Eddie, who has become an international star in the boxing world, and Barry sees it as a key role of a promoter.
‘WWE is a major in my life because sports promoters generally are just doing it for the money, they forgot that they’re there to be entertainers themselves,’ Hearn continued.
‘Vince McMahon, Dana White, Eddie Hearn, those names roll off your tongue as people you’ve heard of. Barry Hearn, to an extent, to an older audience.
‘Today they’re almost bigger stars than the stars they represent. That’s what we’re there for.
‘We’re playing the same game that everyone else plays, just trying to be the best.’
White has been as active a promoter as any on the planet of late, desperately trying to keep UFC events running amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He appears to have managed it, with UFC 249 set to take place on 9 May, but this is only after it was initially cancelled as he fought tooth and nail to host it on the original date of 18 April.
Eventually bosses at ESPN and Disney stepped in to tell White to stand down and while Hearn says the UFC boss clearly made a mistake with his timing, he enjoyed his ingenuity.
‘You’re always impressed with ingenuity,’ Hearn said of White. ‘Logistically it was probably flawed with people not being prepared or available to travel.
‘Irrespective of that he had two venues; an island, I’ve no idea where, and an Indian reservation. Both of which he was prepared to spend millions of dollars to create a safe environment.
‘When it came down to it, there’s no point in creating something that’s not wanted by the people that pay the bills. In his case the television company, quite rightly, said during a lockdown period, we don’t want to be associated with something that so flagrantly ignores the established rules and that’s where he went wrong.
‘There’s nothing wrong with his idea, his timing was just wrong.
‘We have ideas of doing events during a period when there’s no other events, but providing it ticks boxes and government says it’s okay.
‘He tried to do it a bit maverick and frankly people can’t afford to be associated, in light of how much suffering there is everywhere, with other people flagrantly breaking rules. That was a mistake.
‘The invention side was fine. If he’d have said: “The moment I’ve got the all clear, I’m going to jump the gun on everybody else because I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice.” That would have been fine and commendable,
‘I’m all for his investment and his ideas. But his timing was appalling.’
Hearn is busy himself trying to get darts and snooker events back on during the coronavirus crisis, and is doing it all while he recovers from his second heart attack.
Plans are in place to hold events, with no crowd if necessary, as soon as Hearn gets the green light from the government, most notably the World Snooker Championship on 31 July.
The WST boss understands the severity of the situation we are all in but is keen to be one of the first to put on a show as soon as possible.
‘Eventually, we’re going to have to come out of this lockdown situation, somehow and I don’t know how,’ said Barry.
‘Economically the country is going to be bankrupt, people are going nuts, stir crazy, mental health issues, people losing their jobs, highest unemployment ever.
‘Sooner or later we have to come out and start work again and when it’s ready we’ll be the first in the queue.’
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