Frank Smith: ‘I called Eddie Hearn – he finally gave me a job’ | Boxing



On Saturday night, amid the heckling of a sold-out crowd of 60,000 as Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua take their extravagant ring walks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Frank Smith will continue to scrutinize the arena in his own way. quietly relentless. Four months of substantive work will not be done as Joshua and Usyk prepare to trade blows in an intriguing and lucrative world heavyweight title fight that Smith negotiated, planned and staged in his role as boxing chief. at Matchroom Sport.

“I tend not to watch the fight a lot,” Smith says. “I’m never really happy. I walk around the room saying, “Don’t like it, change it, move it…” At the end, I say, “That’s another fact. We have learned a little more and move on to the next one. Saturday is huge but next week it’s Milan, followed by Liverpool, America, Mexico, London. We have a show every weekend until December 18th.

Smith is only 29 years old. He left school at the age of 16 after having started a professional experience at Matchoom two years earlier. This week he helped seal the deal confirming that Joshua has spent the rest of his career at Matchroom under a contract that will net both parties hundreds of millions of pounds.

Eddie Hearn, who replaced his father, Barry, as president earlier this year, remains the promotional face of Matchroom. With over a million followers on Twitter and Instagram, the talkative Hearn Jr dominates British boxing while making serious forays into the sport globally. But Smith is a key presence in the day-to-day running of the company, which currently promotes 105 professional boxers, while being responsible for so many facets of each promotion, from financial deals to legal contracts to tackling logistics. Few people will notice Smith on Saturday night, but the success of the event will owe a lot to his low-key presence.

For a man who was ridiculed in school as Fatboy Frank, this low-key role suits Smith’s entrenched character. “A lot of people say I’m silent because I’m surrounded by two great characters of Barry and Eddie,” Smith says. “I go to meetings, I sit, I listen, I let them talk a lot, then I go on and do what I do best. I learned a lot and it works quite well.

“When I was 14, I was hopping up and down, wanting to talk to everyone. But in business, so many people who want to be the loudest don’t really know what they’re talking about. I like to offer feedback where I add value. We have 40 people in our boxing department and you have to let the people who are good at PR or events, for example, do their jobs. This is how you get the best of them.

Smith and I have met twice for this interview. The first hour-long conversation took place three weeks ago at the company’s headquarters in Brentwood, as Smith recounted how he made his way into Matchroom. “My full-time job here started 13 years ago today, September 1, 2008. But I met Eddie two years ago when I was 14. My grandfather was deceased and my father had organized a party in his honor. My father’s business partner was one of Eddie’s best friends. Eddie had come to the party because my father-in-law also sold him cars. I went to see Eddie and sold him 20 pounds worth of charity raffle tickets. I had no idea who he was. My father-in-law left: “He’s the guy with the Bentley outside. I went to see Eddie, called him a bastard, got 50 pounds from him, took his business card and constantly harassed him until I got the experience professional.

“I thought he was cool, so I was on top of him every day saying, ‘If you don’t give me a job, I’ll go somewhere else.’ He said, “Bro, go do something else.” But I didn’t want to give up and so they put up with me. Barry came over one day and I was putting stickers on 500 Prizefighter hats. He said, ‘You should have gone to college, son. ‘

Frank Smith pictured at Mascalls, the headquarters of Matchroom Sport in Essex. Photography: Antonio Olmos / The Observer

Barry Hearn recently told me that Smith was even better than his corporate attorneys at drafting and verifying contracts for multi-million pound transactions. But Smith explains how his meteoric career nearly fell apart before it started. After a professional experience, he finally got an official job interview at Matchroom. He left very early one morning to catch a train from Chelmsford to Brentwood. “I arrived at the station and suddenly saw that I had forgotten my wallet. We didn’t have Apple Pay at the time, so I had no way of getting a ticket. I remember crying, which seems to have been a constant when I started out.

“I thought, ‘You have an opportunity here, don’t waste it.’ I had it all screwed up before we even started. But then I found a very nice man at the station. He was a businessman, on his way to town, and he told me. gave £ 15. Nine pounds for the train ticket and a little more money for the taxi I would like to know who he was because I would like to buy him a few drinks.

Two months later, Smith thought he was on the verge of losing his new job of brewing tea and odd jobs. After a Matchroom poker event that didn’t end until 3 a.m., the teenager turned off his alarm clock the next morning. He didn’t wake up until Hearn called him at 10:30 am to find out why he wasn’t working. Smith started to cry, but made his way downstairs where he was given a tedious work assignment. “I keep my head down,” Smith remembers, “and then Eddie comes in. He doesn’t even talk to me. He just drops a letter on my shoulder. I open it, and that’s a final warning. I started to cry. I came back to the hotel in the evening and called my mom. I went, ‘Mom, I screwed up.’ And she went crazy with me. She knew it was such a chance for me and arranged for me.

Since Barry Hearn retired in April, Smith’s importance to Matchroom has become common knowledge. Eddie replaced his father as president, which means Smith is now the head of boxing. We’re meeting for the second time this week, at the O2 on Tuesday night, where Joshua and Usyk do media practice. Smith quietly pulls me away from the hype so we can find a room to keep up to date with the details of the new deal with Joshua. “I’ve been working on this for five months with Freddie Cunningham [who heads Joshua’s management company] and Anthony’s legal team. It’s been a lot of work, but it shows the partnership we’ve built over the years.

Was Smith still convinced Joshua would stay with Matchroom? “This is the fourth contract we have signed with him. Anthony has always been loyal and I think he’s happy. We both did a good job for each other and he deserves a lot of credit for the current state of the sport. I remember taking him for his first medicals in July 2013 when we signed him. I was 21, he was 24. It was just the two of us going to Harley Street, doing everything. It was the start of the journey we took to get to where we are today. Everyone on our team has come a long way since then, including Eddie.

“We’ve learned so much, built so much, and it’s great to go through with it because when do you see that in boxing? Anthony is boxing’s biggest star in the world and his next steps are going to be big. But his mind is focused on the weekend. He has to do the job and then we can look to some exciting times. “

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Smith is engaged to Emily Eubank, daughter of Chris Eubank Sr. “I met her when her brother Chris Jr was fighting over one of our cards in 2015. I thought, ‘She’s pretty attractive. So whatever she wants, I do it for her. She thought I was the tea boy – and I was probably still half a tea boy then – but I was working on events. She said, “Okay, I need these tickets taken here, I need it done.” I did whatever she wanted and then after the show I walked into the bar at 12 o’clock. She was setting there with two of her friends. I walked over to them and said, “Are you drinking girls? She thought I was a complete idiot but I was able to take her to the casino anyway and she blamed me for losing 20 pounds. But I had his number at the time and I was persistent – the same way I got the job with Eddie.

Have they ever made wedding plans? “Not yet. But it’s going to be fun. Father of the Bride speech by Chris Eubank Sr. Best man speech by Eddie Hearn. I don’t know what will take the longest. We just decide who we sell the rights to. diffusion… “

Smith smiles before explaining how he and Hearn work so well together. “Eddie’s strength is speaking, so he’s great when he tells people about the vision and the plan. I work closely with him around the numbers and make sure it all adds up, because we have to see him as a business as well. This business has grown so much over the past 30 years and now we want to expand even more into our existing marketing and into new territories.

“We did well in America for example. I remember we signed [the American fighter] Danny Jacobs in 2017. We announced it in LA and Eddie turned to me afterward and said, “Good luck. He was coming back to London and I was flying to New York to put all the plans in place for the first show. I was only 25 and I’m sitting there thinking, “I don’t know what I’m doing. We had only done concerts in the UK at that time. Then I work on a contract with this guy in America and I’m like, “What am I doing here?

“America is never easy. It’s so huge. Each state is like a country. But we did well and this year we promoted Canelo Álvarez, who is obviously a huge star in America and Mexico, and we sold out at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. It was an amazing night, a massive crowd, a huge number of spectators, but that didn’t make us think we had done it in America. It was just the moment we went, “Okay, we’re on the right track. Now we have to go from there and keep building. It will be exactly the same after Joshua and Usyk on Saturday night. We’re going to put on a big show, then we pack up the traveling circus and move on to the next one. This is the only way to continue to build momentum for us and for boxing.


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