Eddie Hearn has described this weekend’s inaugural “Champions Series” event in Abu Dhabi as an “important moment” for boxing, with plans to build on Saturday night with a number of shows in the capital next year – and discussions having already taken place for Anthony Joshua to headline.
Abu Dhabi will on Saturday stage its first major-level boxing event, with a stacked card at Etihad Arena featuring three world title fights. The night is headlined by the WBA light-heavyweight clash between champion Dmitry Bivol and No 1 mandatory challenger Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.
The event marks the first in the multiyear agreement announced in August between Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi.
On Wednesday, Hearn told The National that discussions had begun regarding what comes after Saturday, saying: “Obviously the focus is don’t take our eye off the ball for Saturday. But we’re already in talks for the next one.
“Get this event successfully over the line and then we can move into 2023 with a better strategy moving forward. That’s what we want to establish: that annual schedule.
“I think that comprises two big events and two huge events, to keep the interest moving. What you can’t do is one on [Saturday] and come back in a year. You’re wasting the momentum. You lose everything you built on.
“So really, for us, we’d like to come back February, March or April, another one in summer, two in the back end of the year as well. And then you can keep the momentum going for the sport.
“There’s a lot of boxes to tick. We must stay relentless, and we must keep that aggression in terms of building the sport here.”
Hearn, who expects more than 10,000 fans inside the arena on Saturday, had previously told The National that the new partnership with Abu Dhabi would bring the sport’s most prominent stars to compete in the capital, such as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Anthony Joshua or Katie Taylor.
Joshua, the former world heavyweight champion, will be in attendance on Saturday, while Alvarez, the current undisputed super-middleweight champion, may also be there.
“If you’re a long-term player, if you have a long-term strategy, then there’s plenty of time to bring 'Canelo' Alvarez [to fight] here, plenty of time to bring Anthony Joshua here,” Hearn said. “These guys are aware, they understand now that Abu Dhabi are players in the international boxing market. Fans are starting to be aware; they’ll become more aware on Saturday.
“And I’m just glad the DCT have a long-term vision for boxing. Because there is so much to do here, in terms of the appetite, the infrastructure, the budget for huge, world-class events.
"If we get it right here, which I believe we will, this is going to be a very important moment for boxing on Saturday. And it’ll just be the start for us.”
On Joshua, Hearn said: “We’re already discussing the possibility of him fighting here; 'Canelo' Alvarez against Dmitry Bivol. You will continue to see the biggest names on our roster performing in Abu Dhabi.”
Joshua, a former two-time former unified world heavyweight champion, has not competed since his rematch defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in August, with the Briton’s return to the ring, expected to be next year, yet to be confirmed.
Joshua has suggested fellow Brit Dillian Whyte as a possible next opponent, while also citing Sweden’s Otto Wallin and Croat Filip Hrgovic. Meanwhile, former WBC champion Deontay Wilder is said to be under serious consideration for Joshua later next year.
Asked about that fight possibly landing in Abu Dhabi, Hearn said: “Certainly, they’re the kind of fights, as we build the sport here, we are all looking to bring to this region.
“An Anthony Joshua fight is one thing, and then Joshua against a Wilder, a Joshua against a [Tyson] Fury, are all fights that, when the moment is right to bring a fight of that magnitude here – and it won’t be long – we’ll be aggressively pursuing with the DCT.”