“Middleweight legend Marvin Hagler used to say, ‘it’s hard to get up and do your 5am run when you’ve been sleeping in silk pyjamas’.”
Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn raises the quote as he asks how people stay at the top of their field when they no longer need to financially.
The conundrum will be on the agenda when he talks to footballer Wayne Rooney, former cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins and boxer Anthony Joshua, among others, in his new BBC Sounds podcast ‘No Passion, No Point’.
The series – which launched on 29 May – will examine the success stories, failures and mental approach adopted by huge names from sport, entertainment, business and politics.
Hearn puts his own triumphs down to an “addiction” to his role of promoting boxing’s biggest shows and revealed success in “the dirtiest business” he has seen owes to a punishing work ethic and a chance meeting at a poker table.
Give up sleep for success
Hearn is interviewed hundreds of times a month but now has the challenge of asking the questions he hopes will pin-point “the sacrifices” his podcast guests made and continue to make in pursuit of excellence.
On a day when he flies to Boston, then Washington and eventually on to New York for Joshua’s title bout against Andy Ruiz Jr on 1 June, Hearn is aware of his own determination and its basis.
“In boxing you have to sleep with one eye open as everyone is out there to do you,” the 39-year-old tells BBC Sport.
“There is no business like it and it prepares you for everything, as nothing is more volatile, stressful and dirty than this sport. Everything after it should be a doddle.
“It’s become my vice, an addiction. I don’t want to let others win. It’s relentless and you can’t switch off. Even sleeping, I’m thinking about four-rounders or unification bouts.”
Fate at the poker table
There were early concerns that Hearn may not possess his now obvious work ethic, prompting his father Barry – the legendary Matchroom Sport promoter – to tease him about being a “silver spoon kid”.
The words created a thirst for independence and, after the private school he attended told him his GCSE performance meant he was not welcome to stay on for A-levels, the young Hearn plotted a path.
“I was very different to that first school,” he says. “Very few of the kids there grew up with a dad from Dagenham and a mum from West Ham. I played up, was a bit of a brat and ended up out at Havering College in Romford to get A-levels.
“I didn’t want to work for Matchroom as I had always been seen as ‘Barry Hearn’s son’ growing up, so I wrote to sports marketing companies and got a job with one. I remember a guy there saying, ‘Are you Barry Hearn’s son? What the hell are you doing here?'”
Hearn worked in golf and moved back to Matchroom to set up a golf division before steering the company’s move into poker just as the sport enjoyed a renaissance.
“Poker was great grounding for me as I got to work with very similar people to those I work with now: hustlers; people who would try and knock you, try not to pay you; streetwise people,” he says.
“Then one night I got drawn on a table next to Audley Harrison at a poker event.”
Pouncing on opportunity
Hearn’s new podcast will touch on how success stories take risks and seize chances, something he did with 2000 Olympic super-heavyweight champion Harrison, who had lost four times by the time they met in 2009.
“Audley asked if I could get him an opportunity,” Hearn recalls. “I said, ‘I could get you in a Prizefighter tournament’, then if he won, a shot at a European title and then a David Haye fight for big money. I didn’t have a clue if I could deliver it.
“My dad said, ‘Are you mad? Don’t get me involved. You’re on your own, son.’ Audley was everything that turned Dad off boxing – fighters trying to be promoters.”
Harrison won Prizefighter and found an unlikely late knockout when struggling in his European title shot. Without that punch, would Hearn have got the arena show which would open so many doors, giving him a platform to change the landscape of British boxing?
Hearn adds: “When you’re selling you have to believe in what you’re selling. I truly believed Audley could win; he was very convincing.
“I sold the back side out of it. It sold out Manchester Arena, did huge pay-per-view figures and it was absolutely awful.
“I remember walking out of the arena and some guy shouting abuse at me. I thought, ‘that’s it, I am out’. One, no-one will talk to me, and two, I don’t want to do this – it’s horrendous.
“The Monday after I went to a sandwich shop. I opened the door to a full room and it went completely quiet. Even the guy at the counter brought up he’d paid £15 for it.
“Then the phone rang. Darren Barker’s manager asked would I be interested in working with him. They thought if I’d done that for Audley, surely you can work with Barker, who went on to win a world title.
“Then Kell Brook’s people said they loved what I did. Four days later I had a call from Carl Froch. Within two weeks I had Barker, Brook and Froch. That’s where we all started and I’d thought I was done.”
Find a champion mindset
Hearn built on the opportunism he showed in entering the sport when, with early momentum behind him, he convinced Sky Sports to drop the other providers of boxing content they used, giving him a dominant position with the broadcaster.
“We’d been doing shows with 500 tickets at leisure centres and you could see a basketball net in the back of the camera shot,” says Hearn.
“I said, ‘we have to go to big arenas’. My dad was saying ‘it’s not happening’ but we did Brook against Matthew Hatton and sold 9,000 tickets. Sky couldn’t believe it and gave us the exclusive deal so we could blow this game up.
“Then Joshua comes along and helps us take it to another level.”
Joshua, like Harrison, was a fresh Olympic super-heavyweight champion who looked good, talked well and sold.
“He will give 120% with everything he does,” says Hearn of current world heavyweight champion Joshua.
“It is his mindset that will allow him to dominate the sport and that’s what I want to get out of these podcast chats with people.
“If you’ve come from nothing and now have everything, how do you maintain a drive?”
But what are his own keys to success? Matchroom has expanded into global territories and fixtures at venues like Madison Square Garden – where Joshua fights on Saturday – have become par for the course.
The tool he cites is “simplicity”.
“In terms of my work ethic, it comes from my dad,” says Hearn. “You never get the chance to just shut down for say the time of an average sleep.
“My dad says when you’re struggling in business, get up an hour earlier and go to bed and hour later. Too many people over-think things in business and life. That’s when you start having problems mentally, having too much going on in the mind.
“Keep the target and focus really simple, push out any negativity and have clear goals. Without them you won’t achieve and you’ll fall into a negative world.”
Former world champion George Groves said on a recent BBC Radio 5 Live podcast: “Lots of fighters have tried to take on Eddie. No-one has succeeded.”
Hearn turns focus to New York and a new podcast. There will be long-haul flights, thousands of questions, big money at stake and time spent away from family.
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he says . “I love to do it.”