Anthony Joshua on why Eddie Hearn pact works in a business where ‘lions are afraid of rats’

While boxing inside the ring is often known as the ‘noble art’, it doesn’t quite have the same reputation outside the ropes – something Anthony Joshua is acutely aware of.

The two-time heavyweight world champion has made untold riches in a sport where money can often ruin relationships and blur the lines between good and bad. He’s done so with a career-long association with Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn. He knows why it works, and he knows of the horror stories when promotional pacts do not.

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AJ, who is preparing for that massive showdown vs Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia next Friday (live on DAZN and Sky Sports Box Office), took time out to look at his past, present and future – including that hugely successful partnership with Hearn and Matchroom.

Joshua and Hearn, and why it works

Joshua, speaking in an interview with Mike Costello on Matchroom Boxing’s YouTube channel, said: “There’s a saying in Boxing, where Boxing is the only jungle where the lions are afraid of the rats – because you’ve seen what many other promoters have done to boxers before.

“It wasn’t so long ago, in the 1980s and 90s, when athletes were being taken advantage of by some. It’s such a shame because you see them today – and these are my heroes, and the heroes of so many others – and they’re the guys who really made the Boxing industry work.

“Thankfully, Eddie has proven to me to be one of the best in the business. The Hearn family and Matchroom Boxing have stuck to their word, so I’ve stuck with them, and I would advise anyone in Boxing to look at them as a promoter and a promotional outfit. They taught me, not only how to navigate my career, but they gave me access to help understand how the business fronts.”

Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk September 25 Eddie Hearn
Promoter Eddie Hearn and Anthony Joshua have been together from the start (Photo – Mark Robinson, Matchroom Boxing).

While the Hearns may have helped Joshua to understand the business side of sport, that is something the fighter himself already had in mind. Particularly in the early days of his professional career.

Joshua may have been clad in clothes from ‘George at Asda’ rather than Hugo Boss back in those days, but he still had the instinctive smarts to know what was best for his career. And it helped him.

Why AJ always had ‘a hustler’s head’

Looking back at a photo of him shaking hands on that first promotional deal with Hearn in 2013, he explained: “I used to get my stuff from ASDAGeorge, ASDA! I’d take it to a tailor and get it chopped up for a tenner, then come and present myself to the world.

“You must remember up until this point, the only time I’d ever really have to wear suits was to court dates or funerals. Now I’m doing big business. From a young age, I always had a hustler’s head on my shoulders so I could stand strong with Eddie Hearn – an educated man, who’s come from a good family.

READ MORE: Eddie Hearn says Joshua vs Ngannou is ‘Godzilla and King Kong’

“I’ve come from a good family too, but for me, personally education wasn’t always my main priority. I felt like at this stage in my life, boxing wasn’t the hard part. Making sure my business was in the right order was the hardest part.”

Now Joshua is in a position where while money is important, it will never again be the most important thing. Now he can think primarily about world titles.

Ngannou is a mighty barrier

Next Friday Ngannou presents a significant amount of jeopardy for the British superstar – the former UFC superstar was a revelation on his pro boxing debut last October as he put lineal heavyweight king Tyson Fury on the floor before dropping a controversial split decision.

AJ has at least some tape on Ngannou the boxer now – more than Fury did – but it is still only 10 rounds. We know ‘The Predator’ is strong, mentally tough as teak and can punch like a mule. This will not be easy – even the bookmakers agree.

Joshua knows though that victory will leave him just one step away from his ultimate goal – the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.

Saudi visionary Turki Alalshikh has said he wants the winner of AJ vs Ngannou to meet the Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk winner for all the marbles in boxing’s marquee weight class. Likely in early 2025.

The future is now, and it is all there for Joshua. All he has to do, is take it.

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