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Legendary promoter Barry Hearn convinced Scots pal to swap boxing for darts to save his life

LEGENDARY promoter Barry Hearn insists gangsters like Irish crime boss Daniel Kinahan have always been linked to boxing – and that’s why he advised his mate Tommy Gilmour to switch to darts.

The president of Matchroom Sport now leaves the fighting side of his business to son Eddie Hearn, who has heavyweight superstars including Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk on his books.

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Barry Hearn handed the boxing side of his business over to son Eddie.
Former boxing promoter Tommy Gilmour now manages 10 darts players including champ Gary Anderson.

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Former boxing promoter Tommy Gilmour now manages 10 darts players including champ Gary Anderson.
Barry says gangsters like Daniel Kinahan have had links to boxing for over 100 years.

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Barry says gangsters like Daniel Kinahan have had links to boxing for over 100 years.

But earlier this month the US government offered $5million for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of 44-year-old Daniel Kinahan, who was personally praised by world champ Tyson Fury and also has Scottish business links.

And Barry maintains he’s now happier being involved with the darts and even convinced his Scots promoter pal Tommy Gilmour to switch sports and manage former World Champion Gary Anderson.

Barry, 73, says: “The darts is good fun as the boxing is too stressful as you get older – even for the more resilient characters like Tommy Gilmour and myself.

“I fell out of love with it a little bit because it’s a very difficult business. I did 40 years of that and it does take its toll.”

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Asked about the Kinanhan clan’s links to boxing, Barry adds: “It’s nothing new. It’s always been there and I wouldn’t say it’s going to change.

“Don King is the most famous boxing promoter of all time, I would say. He killed two people, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t deal with him.

“If you go back 100 years ago, the fighters come from a certain area and sometimes people not held in such high esteem come from these areas as well.

“But there are ways of running a business where you can keep your integrity at the right level.

“When I bought my first big house my mum asked me, ‘Are you doing anything illegal?’ I told her, ‘I’m a chartered accountant – we make terrible gangsters.’ And that’s stayed the same ever since.

“So you just carry on, do your job and work within the law.”

Barry will be reunited with Glasgow-born Tommy when he hosts a lunch at Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel on Monday to discuss his recent autobiography My Life.

CHRIS EUBANK

And he reveals they’ve been mates ever since the 70-year-old former boxing promoter helped stage Chris Eubank’s super-middleweight clash with US fighter Tony Thornton at Glasgow’s SEC 30 years ago.

He explains: “We’ve never tolerated fools or bad people, we’ve just been ourselves and I think we’ve done a decent job for the sport and made a decent living for the family as well.”

Barry also promoted Eubank’s rival Nigel Benn, along with Prince Naseem Hamed, Frank Bruno and Joe Bugner, but reveals how his wife of 50 years Susan begged their son Eddie, 42, not to follow in his footsteps.

OVER MY DEAD BODY

He recalls: “When Eddie came to see me and said he wanted to take over boxing, my wife said ‘over my dead body’, because she’s seen what it does.


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“The danger is you become bitter and twisted and sour. You see it in the faces of promoters sometimes when you think ‘You’re not really enjoying your life.’ I got to that stage too.

“But I told my wife there was no way we could stop him as he’s got it in his head. He works unbelievably hard. I thought I put in a decent shift, but he does 16 hour days, seven days a week.

“He’s 42 but I’d say he’s only had another eight years in him before it’s burned out time. But boxing can still give you some amazing moments too.”

GINGER HAIRED KID

Born the son of a bus driver in Dagenham, East London, Barry was working as an accountant when he bought a string of near-derelict snooker halls in the mid-70s – it proved to be his lucky break.

He explains: “The next year the BBC began to televise the sport and my places were packed out.

“Then a tall, skinny, long-haired ginger kid called Steve Davis turned up and asked if he could play. I still consider that one of the luckiest moments of my life.

“Nearly 50 years on Steve and I are still best mates which says it all really.”

SPOTTY KID

Steve, 64, dominated snooker during the 80s, winning six of the eight world finals he competed in – until a spotty kid from Scotland arrived on the scene.

Barry says: “Davis ruled the 80s but there’s a faster gun in the west when this lad Stephen Hendry comes along.

“I remember his manager asked us to do an exhibition tour of Scotland with Stephen. I jumped at it and told Davies to ‘kill this kid’ because I knew he was going to be good so we needed to put it in his head that he couldn’t beat Steve.

“Steve went up for seven days and slaughtered Hendry every night – and the little bugger came back stronger. That’s when I knew we had a serious contention.”

HENDRY ONE OF THE BEST

Stephen, 53, won a record seven world titles – which was only equaled this month by Ronnie O’Sullivan – and Barry declares: “It’s always difficult to say who is the best of all time but Hendry is certainly up there as one of the best, if not the best.

But Barry also made household names of darts players like Phil Taylor and Scotsman Peter “Snakebite” Wright – so what’s the next big breakthrough sport he’s working on?

He states emphatically: “Nine ball pool, because it’s played all over the world – more people play pool than that snooker.

“It’s a global game that has never been promoted properly and I like the game and I like the players and think I can do a good job for it.

“In Scotland you have Jason Shaw who is one of the top pool players in the world. So I’m going to put some effort into that and see how it develops over the next few years.”

TYSON WILL BE BACK

BARRY poured scorn over Tyson Fury’s announcement he will retire after knocking out Dillan Whyte at Wembley.

The 33-year-old world champ said After the fight: “I think this is it. This might be the final curtain for The Gypsy King.”

But Hearn firmly believes that Tyson will fight the winner of the Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk rematch to be crowned the best heavyweight of all time.

He says: “I think it will happen. What I don’t take any notice of is Tyson retiring.

“If he fights for the undisputed champion against Usyk or Joshua, that is the biggest fight in boxing history.

“In my lifetime I have always dreamed of seeing a heavyweight with literally all the belts. I mean Lennox Lewis had the main belts, but he didn’t have all of them.”

And Barry hopes Joshua prevails to make the all British showdown that ever boxing fan wants to see.

He adds: “I am a Joshua man and I believe Joshua wins by knockout – but I am biased and I have to say that Fury is a fighter who seems to be improving fight by fight which is impressive.

“But as a fan, which is the way you should always promote sport, I want to see that fight so please God it happens.”

As for pal Tommy, Barry even reckons swapping boxing for darts saved his life.

He jokes: “I think I’ve kept him alive for another 10 years as he was getting worse and worse with the boxing.

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“He was getting red of face and more and more aggravated by everybody. I said ‘Tommy calm down – try the darts instead. You’ll enjoy it’. So I kept a friend alive, that’s the best thing I can do for him.”

*The Barry Hearn – My Life lunch event takes place on Monday May 9 at 12.30pm. For tickets and details visit spotlightevents.online/barry-hearn

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