Eddie Hearn’s right hand man Frank Smith on his route to the top of boxing
“I put my neck on the line to give you this chance and your behaviour has shown a total lack of respect to me and the company. Please accept this letter as a final warning.”
Frank Smith was 16 when boxing promoter Eddie Hearn dropped a letter on his desk after he had slept late. He admits he cried and phoned his mum, who dished out her own ticking off.
Some 11 years later Smith – still only 27 – helped negotiate and deliver Anthony Joshua’s Saudi Arabia rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr from his position as chief executive of Matchroom Boxing.
Here, Smith tells BBC Sport about his boxing journey that started with a raffle ticket…
“Loyal,” says Hearn when asked to sum up Smith in a word. “During my 10-year journey in boxing he’s been there every step of the way.”
Smith sold £20 of raffle tickets to Hearn at a party back in 2006.
When he was told Hearn owned the Bentley parked outside, he promptly went back and asked for more than £20 – and secured a work experience stint that would eventually lead to full employment when he left school.
The pair are close. Hearn will be Smith’s best man when he marries Emily – the daughter of Chris Eubank. Smith says the wedding speeches from two of boxing’s silk-tongued showmen will likely provide “the best pay-per-view show ever”.
He poses for a selfie with a boxing fan during our interview and is a man in demand. Many might consider him fortunate to have landed a life of travel, celebrity and excitement at the heart of the fight business.
“When I started full time at 16 I’d deliver teas, coffees, pizzas, or anything to people in the company,” Smith recalls.
“I’d stick stickers on golf hats, put advertising boards out on golf courses at 4am, work on hospitality at the darts, sell tickets. At one point I used to sit in a room and cold call companies. Eddie used to say ‘ring all these companies and try to sell them packages’.
“Someone said to me ‘you’re very intelligent’. I don’t see myself as that. I left school with some GCSEs.
“My advice would be work harder than anyone else you ever meet. In 2019 I spent 276 days in hotels. It’s not a complaint as I love it. But some people don’t want to work. I feel it’s because of that social media scene where they see what people have but not what they did to get it.”
“Extravagant,” says Smith, when asked to sum Hearn up in a word, adding his boss is “an amazing salesman”.
Smith is focused on the intricacies of the Matchroom Boxing product – while Hearn sells it with a polish.
Hearn adds: “They wheel me in, I do what I have to do, finish and they get rid of me.”
Hearn – who once sold double glazing – may see something of himself in his protege. The expansion of Matchroom has seen Smith front big news conferences, stand between charged fighters at weigh-ins and seal deals.
“I remember when we did the deal for Joseph Parker to fight Joshua and Parker’s manager David Higgins came to our office and starts saying ‘It’s a bit hot in here’,” Smith recalls.
“He took off his shirt and sat in the office in a vest. So we were sat there negotiating a 26-page contract for a unification bout for the heavyweight championship of the world with a geezer sitting there in a vest.
“With the weigh-ins and face-offs, I’m just stood there wondering do I split them up? I’m thinking ‘please don’t whack one another!’
“Ever since I’ve done those public-eye events, there are so many idiots online and you have to take their words with a pinch of salt.
“My mum rings me and says ‘Darling, I’ve watched a video of you on YouTube and this man has written this comment about you’.
“I’ve found you have to step away.”
Smith had 86 flights in 2019 as Matchroom Boxing’s move into America, Spain and Italy saw the organisation’s workload move to around 50 shows and 500 fights a year.
Their staff resemble a close-knit family on the road and invest long hours in their trade. Hearn is full of praise for the fact Smith “sacrificed” his teenage years and early 20s.
Smith adds: “I think now, people are too concerned about making mistakes and ultimately it’s about learning from them.
“When I was 21, I remember being told ‘start working on our international TV sales’. I didn’t know what that even was.
“Wembley and 90,000 for the Carl Froch and George Groves rematch is a good example. That was probably one where the size of it dawned on me and I thought ‘what the hell am I doing here?’
“But part of this job is you get to see what you do from day one, to the point where you’re watching 90,000 people singing Sweet Caroline.
“When everyone is having a great time you know it’s all worked.”
Smith has even fought himself – in a white-collar fight in 2017 as Frank ‘The Tank’ Smith. He finished with an unbeaten one-fight record.
“I remember thinking how a lot of boxers coming through have a job and train, so to see the dedication they must have on a far bigger scale was good,” says Smith.
“And the nerves – on the morning I woke up and told my girlfriend, ‘I’m not doing this’. Even in the changing room I was thinking ‘it’s not for me’. I won’t be rushing back.”
Smith can instead focus on laying on the nights where paid fighters chase their dreams, just like he has chased his own since the sale of those charity raffle tickets.
“There are a lot of stories I can put in a book one day if I find an island where no one can find me,” he adds.
“I just think I’m a normal kid from Romford and somehow I’ve ended up here.”