Matchroom Boxing Playing the “Long Game” with Talented Prospects

Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing Looking Ahead With a Load of Young Talent

Filip Hrgovic, Otha Jones III, Nikita Ababiy and Austin Williams
(From left to right) Filip Hrgovic, Otha Jones III, Nikita Ababiy and Austin Williams

Matchroom Boxing looking toward the future with lots of young talent

It was announced last year that Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing had partnered with Perform Group. Their billion dollar deal would aim to showcase their boxing product on the brand new DAZN app.

At the time, many expected Hearn to make a play for the top boxing stars in the world. In fact, Hearn made it clear he was targeting many of the sports biggest free agents. This includes such names as the Charlo twins, Errol Spence Jr, and Mikey Garcia. Those would’ve been monumental signings to add to a roster that already included one of the sports biggest mega draws in Anthony Joshua.

Unfortunately for Hearn, he wasn’t able to lure any of those big names. When the official unveiling was made, Matchroom had to settle for lesser known acquisitions Demetrius Andrade, Danny Roman, and Jessie Vargas, among others.

However over time, Matchroom was able to bolster their roster. Key signing included undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, middleweight champion Danny Jacobs,light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, and super flyweight king Sriskat Sor Rungvisai. All of those are very good signings; the type of signings they probably wish they had for their initial announcement.

With that said, what has flown way under the radar is Hearn and Matchroom snatching up many of the sports best prospects and amateur stand outs. Examined on an individual basis, these signings may not seem like a big deal. However, when you view them as a whole, it’s clear to see that Matchroom is playing the long term game.

Building the Roster

Keep in mind, Matchroom was already the home to many of the UK’s most exciting former amateur stand outs. Guys like Josh “Pretty Boy” Kelly and Joshua Buatsi are two of the most valued prospects in all of boxing. Though, they are just two of many of the former UK elite amateurs on the Matchroom roster. Outside of the UK scene, they’ve been locking up some of the most coveted former unpaid fighters. Initially, they signed Kazakhstani Olympic gold medalist Danita Yellusinov, who defeated the aforementioned Kelly at the 2016 Olympic games. Once they both establish themselves as high level pros, a potential rematch sells itself.

I really started to take notice the Matchroom signing frenzy with the signing of Croatian Olympic medalist Filip Hrgovic. Many pundits have labeled Hrgovic as a future heavyweight title contender, and for good reason. Hrgovic, after just seven professional fights, finds himself ranked in the top fifteen in three of the four major sanctioning bodies. The one sanctioning body in exception is the WBC. In his sixth fight against American veteran Amir Mansour, he won the WBC international heavyweight title. This tells me he’s likely to find himself in their top fifteen soon enough.

Hrgovic’s team has made no mistake about it; they intend for him to be on the fast track to title contention. With the Matchroom/DAZN marketing machine behind him, it’s likely the fast track will continue to happen. He has an enormous fan base in his native country. In his last fight, 43% of TV viewers in all Croatia tuned in to see him outclass former title challenger Kevin Johnson. That’s the kind of hometown value that gets guys favorable positions.

Other Standouts

Hrgovic isn’t the only international amateur standout. News broke this week that Matchroom was close to finalizing a deal with World of Boxing to co-promote former Uzbeki amateur world champion Shakhram Giyasov. We gave all the details on Giyasov in a recent piece, but he’s another all-star amateur with “fast track” potential. What makes this signing interesting is the connection to Yelusinov. Yelusinov beat Giyasov in the gold medal match at the 2016 Olympics. Giyasov settled for the silver medal, but any combination of “Wonder Boy” against his former foe or Josh Kelly is a fight that’s easy to sell.

In the U.S. Matchroom has made a major push to lock up the stars of the future. Highly decorated Ohio native, Otha Jones III represents one of those main signings. Jones won 280 of his 300 amateur fights, while winning an astronomical thirteen national titles. He was a favorite to represent the U.S. in the 2020 Olympics, but opted to join the paid ranks instead. Jones checks all the boxes for a promoter. He’s got the talent, he’s charismatic, and has a fan-friendly style. Jones will be making his professional debut on the undercard of Dmitry Bivols title defense against Joe Smith Jr on March 9th.

Other US Signings

Another U.S. national champion, 17 year old Diego Pacheco is also a Matchroom fighter. Pacheco is a 6’4” middleweight who, like Jones, won multiple junior national titles. He had dual membership on both the US and Mexican national teams. His unique size and athleticism make him a very interesting young buck to keep your eye on.

The highly sought after Houston-based Austin “Ammo” Williams joins Jones and Pacheco. Williams is the #1 ranking 165 pounder and the Team USA member is eager to make an impact in the pros. When speaking on Williams, Hearn gushed over the explosive power and star qualities possessed by Williams. Matchroom is looking for the 22 year old to make his pro debut in March or April.

All of these young, decorated U.S. amateurs join New York based studs Nikita “White Chocolate” Ababiy and Reshat Mati, who were announced with the initial Matchroom/DAZN rollout.

These are a lot of unproven names to keep your eye on. Some of them may pan out, some of them may not. We’ve already seen the later Nkosi Solomon, who Hearn tabbed as a future heavyweight star, clubbed in his pro debut by 2-1 Matt Cameron. Never the less, it’s easy to see that Matchroom is preparing for the future, which is always a smart move.

They have a host of US based and international stars to build now, and it will be interesting to see how they use their new DAZN platform to do that. The deal is for eight years, so a lot of these names will have time to either sink or swim by time the contract is up. As someone who is fascinated by watching the progression of the stars of tomorrow, I know I’ll be paying attention. Will you?

By: Tanner Gill

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