“I don’t tend to watch fight very much,” Smith says. “I’m not really happy. I walk around saying: ‘I don’t like it, change it, move this…’ At the end I say: ‘That’s another thing done.’ We learned a little more and moved on to the next stage. Saturday is huge but next week is Milan, followed by Liverpool, America, Mexico and London. We have a show every weekend until December 18th.”
Smith is only 29 years old. He left school at the age of sixteen, having begun work experience at Machoom two years earlier. This week is
Help close the deal Confirming that Joshua has committed the rest of his career to Matchroom in a contract that will win both parties hundreds of millions of pounds.
Eddie Hearn, who replaced his father, Barry, as chairman earlier this year, continues to be the promotional face of Matchroom. With over a million followers on both Twitter and Instagram,
Rich Hearn Jr. dominates British boxing With serious breakthroughs in sports worldwide. But Smith is a key presence in the day-to-day running of the business, which currently promotes 105 professional boxers, while being responsible for many aspects of every promotion from financial deals to legal contracts to combating logistics. Few will notice Smith on Saturday night, but the event’s success will owe much to his humble presence.
For the man who was mocked at school by the name of Fatboy Frank, this unobtrusive role fits Smith’s well-established personality. “A lot of people say I’m cool because I’m around two great characters in Barry and Eddie,” Smith says. “I go to meetings, I sit and listen, I let them talk a lot and then I go on and do what I do best. I’ve learned a lot and it’s doing really well.
“When I was 14 I was flipping up and down, wanting to talk to everyone. But in business, a lot of people who want to be loud don’t really know what they’re talking about. I love providing input where I add value. We have 40 people In our boxing department and you have to let people who are good at, say, public relations or events, do their jobs. That’s how you get the best out of them.”
Smith and I met twice for this interview. The first hour-long conversation was three weeks ago at the company’s headquarters in Brentwood where Smith described how he made his way to the Match Room. “I started my full time job here 13 years ago, on September 1, 2008. But I met Eddie two years ago when I was 14. My grandfather passed away and my dad threw a party in his honor. My dad’s business partner was one of Eddie’s best friends. Eddie had come to the party Because my dad’s father sold him cars too. I went to Eddie and sold him 20 pounds worth of charity lottery tickets. I had no idea who he was. Dad left: “Here’s the guy with a Bentley outside.” I walked up to Eddie, and called him a tight bastard. I got 50 pounds from him, got his business card, and attached to him constantly until I gained work experience.
“I thought he was a cool weird guy, so I’d deal with him every day and say, ‘If you don’t give me a job, I’ll go somewhere else.'” He said: My friend, go and do something else. But I will not give up and so they bear with me. Barry came in one day and I was sticking stickers on 500
Pricefighter hats; “You should have gone to college, son,” he said.
Frank Smith is photographed at Maskols, Match Room Sport’s headquarters in Essex. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer
He told me recently Smith is even better than a corporate lawyer at drafting and verifying contracts for multi-million-pound deals. But Smith explains how his meteoric career almost fell apart before it even began. After work experience, he finally took himself out for a formal job interview at Matchroom. Get up very early one morning to catch a train from Chelmsford to Brentwood. “I got to 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 in my early days.
“I was thinking: ‘You have a chance here, don’t screw it up.’ I was screwing it up before we even started. But then I found a very nice guy at the station. He was a businessman, on his way into town, and he gave me £15. Nine for a train ticket. And some extra money for the taxi too. I wish I knew who he is because I’d like to buy him some drinks.”
Two months later, Smith thought he was about to lose his new tea-making job and do odd jobs. After a matchroom poker event that ended at just three in the morning, the teen set off his alarm the next morning. He only woke up again when Hearn called him at 10:30 a.m. to find out why he wasn’t working. Smith started crying but reached the basement where he was given a hard work assignment. Smith remembers, “I keep my head down, and Eddie comes in. He doesn’t even talk to me. He just literally falls on my shoulder. I open it, which is one last warning. I started crying out of my eyes. I came back to the hotel in the evening and called my mom. I went: ‘Mom ‘I messed up.’ And she went crazy with me. She knew this was an opportunity for me and she sorted me out.”
Since Barry Hearn’s retirement in April, Smith’s importance in Matchroom has become public knowledge. Eddie replaced his father as chief, which means that Smith is now the head of boxing. We’re meeting for the second time this week, at O2 on Tuesday evening, where Joshua and Usyk do an informational exercise. Smith quietly guides me away from the hype until we can find a room to go through the details of Joshua’s new deal. “I’ve been working on it for five months with Freddy 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 always confident that Joshua would stay with Matchroom? “This is our fourth contract with him. Anthony has always been loyal and I think he is happy. We both have done so well for each other and he deserves a lot of credit for where the sport is today. I remember taking him for his first medical checkup in July 2013 when we signed It. I was 21, he was 24. We’d just go to Harley Street, get it all done. That was the beginning of the journey we took to get to where we are today. Everyone on our team has come a long way since then, including That’s Eddie.
“We’ve learned a lot, built a lot and it’s great to take something right through to the end because when do you see that in boxing? Anthony is the biggest star in world boxing and his next steps will be important. But his mind is focused on the weekend. He needs to get the job done and then We can look forward to 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 very attractive. So anything she wants, I’ll do it for her. I thought I was a tea boy – and I was probably still half a tea boy at the time – but I was working on events. She was like, “Okay, I need to take these tickets here, I need to do this.” She did everything she wanted and then entered the bar at 12 after the show. She was sitting there with two of her friends. I went to them and said: Drink, girls? She thought I was a complete idiot but I still had to take her to the casino and she tried to lose 20 pounds. But I had her number at the time and I persevered – the same way I was getting the job with Eddie.”
Have they made any wedding plans yet? “Not yet. But it will be fun. Father-of-the-bride speech by Chris Eubank Sr., Best Man speech by Eddie Hearn. Not sure which one will be longer. We are just deciding who to sell the broadcast rights to…”
Smith smiles before explaining how well he and Hearn work together. “Eddie’s strength is talking, so he’s great when he tells people the vision and the plan. I work closely with him on the numbers and make sure we stack it all up because we have to look at it as a business too. This company has grown a lot over the last 30 years and now we want to expand even more.” In our current marketing and in new areas.
“We did really well in America for example. I remember we signed [the American fighter]
Danny Jacobs in 2017. We announced it in Los Angeles and Eddie turned to me afterwards and said, “Good luck.” He was heading back to London and I was traveling to New York to make all the plans for the premiere. I was only 25 years old and I was just sitting there thinking, “I don’t know what to do.” We only had shows in the UK at that point. Next thing I’m working on a contract with this guy in America and thinking: “What am I doing here?
“The United States is never easy. It’s so huge. Every country is like a country. But we did a good job this year
We have upgraded Canelo Álvarez, who is clearly a huge star in America and Mexico, and we Sold by Dallas Cowboys. It was a great night, great crowd, great numbers of viewers, but it didn’t make us think we made it to America. That was the moment we went: “Good, we’re on the right track. Now we need to keep going from there and keep building. It will be exactly The same after Joshua and Osik Saturday evening. We’ll put on a great show and then gather the traveling circus and move on to the next show. It’s the only way to continue building momentum for us and for boxing.”