Old rivalries put aside as Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren’s best collide in a battle where loyalty pays off



Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn
Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn pick five of their best to do battle (Picture: Getty)

Boxing has always been regarded as the loneliest sport. Going into battle on your own is the every day reality but in a unique twist on Saturday, a team dynamic will be in play in the Matchroom vs Queensberry ‘5 vs 5’ showcase.

A year ago, the mere suggestion of Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren collaborating to put together one of the biggest shows of the year would have had you laughed out of the room. For decades, the disdain has been as genuine as anything in the ring. British boxing’s biggest power-brokers refused to directly do business with each other, with their long-standing rivalry fought out bitterly and quite often vindictively in interviews and on social media on an almost weekly basis.

The presence of Turki Alalshikh, the driving force behind Saudi Arabia’s expanding influence on boxing, has helped heal those old wounds, bringing the two old foes together and presenting the ‘5 vs 5’ concept earlier this year.

It’s a simple idea; five of Hearn’s best Matchroom fighters up against five of Warren’s finest from Queensberry Promotions. With team captains and a points system in place, it is an exciting, fresh format that gives one of the oldest sports in the world something new to work with.

Hearn has handed the Matchroom captaincy to his newest acquisition in Deontay Wilder, brought in specifically for this card to fight Chinese heavyweight star Zhilei Zhang. Continuing a trend of old foes turning friends, it comes after Hearn and Wilder spent years tearing strips off the other, each accusing the other man of being responsible for the fight with Anthony Joshua never materialising.

At the other end of the scale to Wilder is Craig Richards, who will represent Matchroom at light-heavyweight up against Willie Hutchinson. While Wilder’s presence in Matchroom colours is new and sure to be a brief one, Richards’ represents years of loyalty and long-standing ties between him and Hearn, dating back to his professional debut nine years ago.

‘I am one of the Matchroom’s originals, for sure,’ Richards told Metro.co.uk.

Matchroom vs Queensberry in Saudi Arabia
All 10 fighters were involved in a unique face-off (Picture: Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

‘When I first turned pro, I didn’t have a massive amateur pedigree, I didn’t know whether I would get a TV contract. An opportunity arose and Eddie said he would have a look at me I got my debut on one of his shows just by chance. I went out and got the KO. I kept getting invited back.’



Matchroom vs Queensberry 5 vs 5 series

Deontay Wilder (Matchroom) vs Zhilei Zhang (Queensberry)

Filip Hrgovic (Matchroom) vs Daniel Dubois (Queensberry)

Ray Ford (Matchroom) vs Nick Ball (Queensberry)

Austin Williams (Matchroom) vs Hamzah Sheeraz (Queensberry)

Craig Richards (Matchroom) vs Willy Hutchinson (Queensberry)

The Crystal Palace fighter is part of a division overflowing with huge domestic dust-ups, having already fought his then-stable mate Joshua Buatsi in a compelling south London derby two years ago.

Matchroom vs Queensberry in Saudi Arabia
Richards looking for a statement win (Picture: Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

Richards has come up the hard way in many respects, fighting on small hall shows a world away from the glamour of Saudi on Saturday night earlier in his career. But has remained in the world title conversation over the years, with his performance up against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in 2021 ensuring his reputation remains a stellar one.

Richards, who linked up with new trainer Shane McGuigan earlier this year, values loyalty and with promotional and personal ties more important than ever on Saturday, fighting on the Matchroom team has that extra resonance.

Matchroom vs Queensberry in Saudi Arabia
Willie Hutchinson is representing Queensberry (Picture: Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

‘As my career progressed, a lot of my fights were make or break fights, fights where I had to prove myself,’ he continued. ‘I went from fighting to be on Matchroom, fighting to stay on Matchroom and now fighting for Matchroom. The progress has been crazy.

‘I am big on loyalty and I know Eddie is too. that’s where we have gelled well and why I have got the opportunity. It matters to me, in life generally, in business and in this sport.’

Like Richards, his opponent Hutchinson has long-standing ties with promoter Warren. That is also the case with the rest of the Queensberry team with Nick Ball, Hamzah Sheeraz and Daniel Dubois all promoted by the 72-year-old Londoner for most of their careers – in Dubois’ case, from the moment he turned professional.

Even for the new recruits, there is pride in representing the team. ‘For me, boxing has always been an individual sport. But this time we fight as a team,’ their Queensberry teammate Zhang said. ‘Win or lose, we are a team. So this concept has certainly given me extra power to fight for the glory.’

Each man will ultimately be out to further their own career on Saturday but with Hearn and Warren roaring on from the touchline, it will be a team game too.

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