Last month Sky Sports broadcast ‘The Boxing Hour’ featuring both Barry and Eddie Hearn – whose Matchroom organisation “owns, manages and promotes sporting events” across the world. Both were in an upbeat mood with presenter Anna Woolhouse and why wouldn’t they be?

They are firmly established as the leading boxing promotional team in the UK (due to their partnership with Sky Sports) but also have a strong presence in America, through a reported $1 billion deal, with US streaming service DAZN. However, their ambitions extend beyond the traditional boxing markets. They have organised shows in Italy and Spain and have ambitions for potential growth in the Middle East and potentially the Indian subcontinent.

Barry Hearn was a prominent figure in the sport during the early nineties when promoting Chris Eubank. When the Brighton showman lost his world title to Steve Collins in 1995, this also signified the start of Matchroom diverting their attention away from the noble art with more focus diverted towards darts and snooker.

Eddie Hearn surfaced on the scene in 2009 with former Olympic gold medallist Audley Harrison and has been credited with making boxing a priority within the family business again. His relentless use of social media and clever marketing strategies gave him an edge over his competition, not only in raising his profile but also engaging and attracting a younger, tech-savvy audience to the sport.

During the coronavirus lockdown it seems not a day went by without the 40-year-old gracing us with his presence on various online productions as well as TV appearances, radio broadcasts or on the back pages. He has not far short of a million followers on Twitter and it’s no exaggeration to say he is actually more famous than the vast majority of his boxers.

However, a high public profile brings with it certain pitfalls. There is greater intrusion into his personal life as well as trolling on social media.

My first and only encounter with Barry Hearn goes back to 2000, when he was promoting Naseem Hamed’s world title clash against the South African Vuyani Bungu. Prior to the fight he made controversial comments in relation to immigration and those seeking asylum on Nicky Campbell’s BBC Five Live show.

At the post-fight media conference, I asked Naseem and his older brother and business manager Riath, for a response. Judging from their reaction they were unaware of such remarks and offered no substantial response. Barry Hearn on the other hand made a beeline straight for me saying that he had been taken out of context.

It would be fair to assume that there would be greater scrutiny and backlash if Barry Hearn were to repeat such views. However, Eddie Hearn is the public face of the Matchroom, whose boxing operation is arguably more diverse compared to that of twenty years ago.

They have boxers from all corners of the UK including leading fighters of Asian/Pakistani origin. These include former British bantamweight champion Kash Farooq, the 2014 Commonwealth Games medallist, Qais Ashfaq, along with Oldham’s rising prospect Aqib Fiaz. During an Instagram live chat with Bolton’s former world champion, Amir Khan, Hearn referenced Ramadan, which indicates some knowledge of the Islamic faith.

There is also Ireland’s Katie Taylor, one of the biggest names in women’s boxing, who according to the Irish Times is a practising Catholic. Their biggest attraction, Anthony Joshua, is of Nigerian descent. Moreover, many of the boxers aligned to Matchroom in the US are of a Hispanic or black background.

Such is his public profile that Eddie Hearn’s opinions are sought on an array of subjects. During an interview held with Tony Blair’s former Director of Communication, Alastair Campbell for British GQ, he revealed that he voted for Brexit. There will be those who will be astounded that someone who portrays a global, internationalist outlook would support a Leave position. He also revealed that he voted Tory.

He will be the first to admit that he is not the most politically knowledgeable. It’s no great surprise that he was not booked to appear on Question Time or Peston to discuss the intricacies of the Irish backstop.

The younger Hearn has been commended on voicing his concerns on social media regarding the nation’s mental well-being due the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent quarantine. To the best of my knowledge, he has not expressed a similar stance at 10 years of Tory-led austerity and the impact it has had on the emotional well-being on some of the most disadvantaged individual, families and communities in the country.

Moreover, as a voter of the Conservative and Unionist Party, is he concerned that Brexit has the potential to lead to Scottish independence and thus break-up the UK?

Given his plans for global domination I suspect he will be looking to brush up his knowledge of world affairs as sports and politics have a habit of entwining. Last year he was heavily criticised for staging Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jnr in Saudi Arabia.

Human rights organisations were concerned that the regime in Riyad would use such an occasion to “sportswash” its “heavily tarnished image”.

Felix Jaken, Amnesty International’s UK Head of Campaigns said at the time: “Despite the hype over supposed reforms, Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a sweeping human rights crackdown, with women’s rights activists, lawyers and members of the Shia minority community all being targeted.

“There’s still been no justice over the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen is now in its fifth year of indiscriminate attacks on homes, hospitals and market places.”

Speaking to the Guardian’s Sean Ingle, Hearn argued it was unfair to single him out.

He said: “I was driving up and down the road last night thinking of all the criticism I’ve been getting. And I passed Gucci, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Versace and Ralph Lauren. And although it is easy for us to say Formula E, the tennis Super Cup, and the PGA Tour is here too, I also believe that no one has right to tell a fighter how and where they can earn their money.”

He went on to add: “The Saudis want to show they are changing and they want a more positive image worldwide by bringing in events. The sportswashing thing is over my head.”