Skip to content

Barry and Eddie Hearn look back: ‘When I turned 16 he took me to a boxing ring and we sparred. It was pretty violent!’ | Familia

Barry Hearn and his son Eddie in 1990 and 2022
Barry Hearn and his son Eddie in 1990 and 2022. Later photograph: Simon Webb/The Guardian. Styling: Lara Hargrave. Grooming: Neusa Neves at Terri Manduca using Nars. Archive photograph: courtesy of Barry Hearn

Barry and Eddie Hearn are the heavyweight promoters and hype-men responsible for some of the biggest moments in sporting history. Dagenham-born Barry rocketed the status of sports such as snooker, poker, darts and boxing, and is the founder of TV promotion company Matchroom Sport. Eddie, now chairman, found his feet representing golfers, before becoming the first boxing promoter to strike a $1bn streaming deal. Barry’s autobiography, My Life: Knockouts, Snookers, Bullseyes, Tight Lines and Sweet Deals, is released on 28 April.

Eddie

This is Dad and I sat in the study, when I’m about 10. His work phone would go off all night, and I’d never intentionally listen but I was subconsciously taking it in. I’d hear a lot of arguments and raised voices, questions about fighters, Eubank, Bruno, Naseem. It was exciting. Now I’m a carbon copy of Dad. Only with a mobile, so there’s no escape.

Dad wasn’t around that much when I was young; he was traveling a lot. I’d always wait for him to come through the front gates, and once we’d finish dinner he’d take me outside to play football or cricket for an hour. He was ridiculously competitive and would bowl full pelt. It wouldn’t matter what we were doing, he would never let me win. And now I don’t let my two daughters win. The mindset in our family is: you win when you deserve to win. You never get given victory.

Dad was worried that I would be a spoiled rich kid, the type he hated, growing up. I was a bad teenager. At the weekend I’d fly around the world with him, then be back to school on Monday. I’d have teachers going on at me and I’d be thinking, “I’ve just been in New York with Frank Bruno and you’re telling me off?” That was the wrong attitude. I felt this struggle for my own identity: I was so proud of being known as Barry Hearn’s son – but I eventually realized that’s all I’d be, unless I worked hard and did something spectacular.

Dad always said to me that when I turned 18 we’d go to the boxing gym and have a fight. By the time I was 16 I was nearly 6ft, and he said: “I think we should do it now.” So we went to a gym in Romford and sparred. It was pretty violent. I hit him to the body, and he couldn’t carry on in the second round. It was embarrassing, but he couldn’t have been happier. “My son!” he said. “He ain’t no soft kid. He’s one of us.”

When Dad had his first heart attack, he was 50. My granddad died at 45, and his dad at 44, so it was worrying. When we get to the hospital, he’s all wired up, and the doctor asks: “Do you smoke?” Dad had given up but he was always a bit of a crafty smoker, only my mum did n’t know that. He says: “Well, every now and then.” And she goes: “You do que?” The monitor starts flashing as his heart rate shoots up. Then the doctor asks: “Are you on any diet tablets?” Mum goes: “Look at him! Does he look like he is?” And Dad says: “Well, I was taking these slimming tablets … ” She went berserk! It was hilarious. He had another heart attack in 2020, but he’s already back running marathons. I’m 42 now and get my heart checked regularly.

These days we’re still competitive but it’s all about business – how many tickets you’ve sold, how much money you’ve made. He’s also chasing me for time rather than the other way around. Yesterday he says to me: “How many games of cricket are we going to play this year? Will we play golf next week?” and I go: “Well, Dad, I’ll have to see.”

Barry

I was not a good dad. You have to be selfish if you want to be successful, and when Eddie was little I was still making my mark. As time went on, around the time this photo was taken, I got better, spent more time with him. It’s a posed call for the purpose of the picture, but it’s the phone I’d be using to speak to Don King or Bob Arum.

When my wife Susan’s waters broke with Eddie – one of the worst things I’ve ever seen – I took her straight to Epping Forest hospital at 9.30am. Her de ella’s previous labor with our daughter Katie had taken 24 hours, so as far as I was concerned I could drop her off de ella and still play snooker with this geezer for £50 at 12pm. At 1pm the hospital phones. A nurse says: “Your wife’s in the final stages of labour.” I reply: “It’s one-all.” The girl says: “Sorry, what does that mean?” I go: “I’m playing snooker against this fella and if it goes well, I’ll have the deciding frame and I’ll be there as quickly as I can.” Anyway, I win. I pot a lovely pink down the rail and then drive like a maniac back to the hospital. When I arrive I see Susan on the trolley and tell her: “Best of luck, girl.” She replies: “Where’ve you been, you bastard? I had it 20 minutes ago!” I’ve never lived it down. Doesn’t mean I didn’t care, though.

I brought Eddie up to kill or be killed. I came from less than nothing – I don’t say that to be proud, it’s just factual. The area we lived in had been bombed in the war, so we moved to a new industrial estate. My dad was a bus driver, and we had no money. When I was 10 I had to wear short trousers because we couldn’t afford long ones. A lot of kids laughed at me for it. It made me quite violent, and I’ve never liked bullies since that day on.

I was really quite concerned about Eddie early doors. I was thinking, “This kid has everything he wants and I’m not sure he I like what I see.” He was flashy, mouthy – a public schoolboy. So I wanted to fight him. Susan went mad: “If you hurt my son in that ring … ” I wasn’t going to kill him, but I was gonna knock him out. And I hit him with a proper punch. He didn’t even fall over, and I thought, “Wait a second…” When I left that ring I was made up. From that moment, I knew he would follow in my footsteps.

The one piece of advice my dad told me was, “Don’t waste a second of your life.” And I haven’t. I pushed Eddie into everything and I wanted him to be the same as me. Now it doesn’t matter when I die, because Eddie is me – he sounds and thinks like me. It’s almost like having a twin. And without sounding terribly big-headed, I know I’m his hero from him, which is a nice feeling.

Eddie is making the company far bigger than I ever thought it was going to be, which is why I stood down. He’s a bloody good operator, and we’ve been on this journey together. I like to think I started off as a dad and ended up as his best friend of him. Even if he does take the piss out of me slowly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.