Promoter Beef: Leonard Ellerbe vs. Eddie Hearn Exposes Boxing’s Privilege Principle

Ellerbe Photo by Prince Williams/Getty Images. Hearn Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

In boxing, cash is king and those who have it flaunt it readily and gaudily to attract an audience to their sports entertainment brand. However, fissure lines within the game, along with class, race, and territorial boundaries, also lie within the game. For months, two of boxing’s biggest promoters, Leonard Ellerbe and Eddie Hearn, have been showing the pressurized state of the game in real-time.

Ellerbe is the CEO of Mayweather Promotions and was asked at a media workout recently about his latest star, Gervonta “Tank” Davis’ perceived lack of quality opponents. Tank faces stablemate fighter Rolando “Rolly” Romero next Saturday, May 28, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

When the conversation steered into Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports’ fighter Devin “The Dream” Haney, Ellerbe felt the need to invalidate his rival.

“Don’t Know What The F**k He’s Doing”

“I know Devin very well, a tremendous fighter, he grew up in this gym,” Ellerbe said to FightHype.com.

“Excellent fighter. He signed with a promoter (Hearn) who don’t know what the f**k he’s doing; he’s f***ed off over a billion dollars and still hasn’t built one f—in’ star in the United States.”

Leonard Ellerbe Tweets about Eddie Hearn

Eddie Hearn is a U.K.-based promoter who declared war on the American boxing establishment. With his star fighter, heavyweight, and fellow Brit Anthony Joshua in tow, Hearn introduced the DAZN streaming service model to usurp pay-per-view and begin to enter the American market aggressively.

However, due to the pomp of his stateside entrance and as the son of successful sports promoter Barry Hearn, Ellerbe of the bootstrapping gentry of the American fight business does not appreciate the younger Hearn’s methods.

Leonard Ellerbe tweets

Hearns Clapback

“If I don’t know what I’m doing, why am I 100 times bigger than Leonard Ellerbe?” Hearn said to Pro Boxing Fans during the Joshua Buatsi and Craig Richards press conference last Thursday.

“Why are we the biggest global promotional company in the world bar none? And Leonard Ellerbe is not even relevant actually in the boxing industry. When you talk about the top promoters in the world, do you mention Leonard Ellerbe? Let’s be honest, not in a million years.

“This guy is hilarious. He is so angry, he has lost his mind. I need to take him out for a nice cup of tea, Leonard Ellerbe. But, how can you say this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing? Look at me, we’re the biggest in the game. What are you? Nothing, you work for Floyd Mayweather.”

Bigger and Blacker

Ellerbe, along with Al Haymon, strategically positioned the insane abilities of Floyd Mayweather into a billion-dollar business. It is the most significant and Blackest movement ever in the boxing business. Even in retirement, the team still keeps Mayweather earning at a high level as an exhibition fighter.

Although the team didn’t have any superstars during the majority of Mayweather’s professional run, fighters like Badou Jack and now Gervonta “Tank” Davis led the organization past the Mayweather era.

However, Ellerbe, a Washington, D.C., native, and Mayweather, a Grand Rapids, Michigan, native-turned-Las Vegas icon come from humble beginnings. From a strategic move away from their initial promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, Ellerbe, Mayweather, and Haymon, behind the scenes, have built an enviable empire.

New Energy. Good Old Boy System.

Hearn, who started with considerable resources, attempted to discredit the pay-per-view model that made Mayweather over a billion dollars in his professional boxing career. It ruffled the feathers of Ellerbe, who became a millionaire many times over from nothing by going direct to consumer via PPV.

To him, the streaming proposition Hearn came busting into America with is more about classism and a lack of understanding of the boxing business as it elevated under the Mayweather’s reign. It puts a ceiling on their earnings potential and keeps the power in the hands of the power brokers who do rarely look like Ellerbe.

Now that Tank Davis has floated the idea of leaving Mayweather Promotions, Hearn smells blood in the water. Although Ellerbe is far from cash-poor, he knows when to push the hefty business pocketbook he inherited from his father and grew under his supervision.

Provocation

“Can you imagine if we sign Gervonta Davis?” Hearn quipped. “Now, I’m not saying we’re going to approach Gervonta Davis, but let me tell you if Gervonta Davis’ contract is up and only then would we speak to him, what were we saying about those billion dollars?

“We’ve got to open up the case, baby, because I would definitely overpay to sign Gervonta Davis, just for the banter with Leonard Ellerbe.”

As the back and forth continues between the two, only time will tell if pay-per-view or streaming will decide who is the better promoter. Until then, Hearn might want to watch his back.

“I’ll knock that motherf***er cold out, period,” Ellerbe said after the Gervonta Davis vs. Isaac Cruz fight. “I don’t play them type of games. He might do that over there.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.