Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder: Eddie Hearn’s PR masterclass
  
Author: Riku Heikkilä

The boxing Twittersphere erupted when Deontay Wilder posted a video offering $50 million to Anthony Joshua for a heavyweight unification clash. Coincidentally earlier that day another US entity, telecommunications conglomerate Comcast, bid to take control of European pay-television group Sky (owner of Sky Sports).  Unlike a takeover bid of a listed entity, legal requirements don’t require to inform the public of the finances underpinning a pay-per-view boxing bout.
 
Regardless of what boxing fans think about the merits of a $50 million social media offer from Team Wilder, this is just another tactic in an ongoing PR saga. Eddie Hearn is a master of swaying public sentiment and using the media as a conduit for negotiations. Judging by public sentiment he has magically convinced many that Team Wilder aren’t in a position to make a serious offer and Matchroom are the only party pushing these negotiations.
 
There are many tactics that one can use when negotiating a deal in public, but here are some that have been used so far by Eddie Hearn to get the best deal for his fighter.
 
Ensure that your narrative is played out in public:
 
With Matchroom Boxing and Anthony Joshua having a partnership with Sky Sports, it means that they can control the narrative and set the tone across the UK for the news coverage around the Joshua vs Wilder matchmaking.
 
Most breaking news (exclusives) around these negotiation have either been given to Sky News or voiced on IFL TV, which are both effectively pro-Joshua and Matchroom Boxing platforms. Team Wilder don’t share the same luxury of having an exclusive mainstream broadcast partner, therefore his team resort to posting videos on social media, which don’t have the same third party endorsement or objective view that Sky Sports seemingly provides on these developments.
 
Question the opposition’s legitimacy:
 
Eddie Hearn refers to Shelly Finkel as Shirley Winkel. Funny to most, but there is a clear reason for this, it undermines the credibility of Team Wilder’s chief negotiator. How can you take an offer seriously from someone called Shirley Winkel?
 
As the old mantra goes you repeat something enough it sticks. When looking at Shelly Finkel’s resume he has managed all-time greats, including Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao, Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Meldrick Taylor and Mike McCallum. He deserves a lot of respect, but for his sins he doesn’t appeal to today’s social media savvy fans and doesn’t have the same sway with the media as Eddie Hearn.
  
Publically disagree on the value of the asset:
 
In most IFL TV interviews Eddie Hearn will continuously hammer home the point that Team Wilder don’t have the money to make a serious offer. Regardless of whether this is fact, it serves a purpose down the line. The “offer” that was made by Team Wilder has been called into question as the source of the funds is unclear.
 
Surely doing due diligence on an offer is something that is left to the lawyers and accountants, rather than the promoter for the show? If team Povetkin were to offer Joshua $50 million in the summer to fight in Russia – I’m sure that Eddie Hearn wouldn’t publically ask Povetkin’s backers for the source of the funds. Then again some things are better left unknown.
 
In most cases this would sound like as excuse, but as the narrative has already been set it’s now an acceptable reason in many people’s minds to rebuff the offer from the outset.
 
Win the hearts and minds of the publics:
 
Britain’s greatest Heavyweight is Lennox Lewis, however the boxing public will always wonder what would have happened if he fought Riddick Bowe. The common notion is that Bowe avoided fighting Lewis, as his team didn’t accept a winner takes all offer .
 
Making deals is complex and multifaceted, and money is only a part of the things discussed at a negotiation table. What remains important to all parties is to save face regardless of the outcome of the negotiations. Team Joshua is seemingly doing all it can to get the deal over the line. Publically stating millions of dollars (e.g. $12.5 million offer to Wilder) is a great tactic of achieving this.
 
History tends to remember the high purses and the team that made the last take it or leave it offer. I am convinced that Team Joshua ultimately want to make the fight, as do Team Wilder. Unless both parties feel like they are getting a good deal the fight won’t happen. Sadly, I fear this could turn out to be the next Mayweather vs Pacquiao and take place years too late.
 
The most important thing to remember when the social media offers are flying back and forth is that this deal won’t be agreed over social media. It wasn’t long ago that a few years after the initial Matchroom Twitter offer to Frampton, the bell rang in Manchester Arena and the eagerly awaited clash took place. That night was a disappointment – if Joshua and Wilder meet it will be an explosive affair.

Follow Riku on Twitter:  @Lead_Right