Barry Hearn has recalled the time he literally put everything out there in a bid to give promising young snooker amateur Ronnie O’Sullivan a chance as a professional.
O'Sullivan is widely regarded as one of the greatest snooker players ever, as he holds the record for the most ranking titles in professional snooker with 38 to his name, while also being a six-time world champion. However, it could have been a different story altogether if it wasn't for Hearn.
In his autobiography titled: ‘Barry Hearn: My Life’, the former promoter has been very revealing about the lengths he went to in order to convince the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) to let the promising youngster turn pro. In an excerpt from his book, published in The Sun, the 73-year-old wrote: "When I went to a WPBSA meeting to argue the case for Ronnie to be granted professional status, I wasn’t expecting any favours.
"I could tell it wasn’t going down too well. Then I took extreme action, action of which I am not proud, though it was effective. 'We all know what’s going on here,' I said, standing up. It’s not about Ronnie O’Sullivan. It’s about you not liking me, which I can understand. Well, I’ve got some advice for you...'
"I undid my belt and trousers and let them drop to the floor. Then I took off my underpants, turned round, leaned over a chair and stuck my a*** towards the board members of the WPBSA.
"If you’ve really got to f*** someone, f*** me, don’t f*** the kid," I said. Unsurprisingly, the officials were stunned and told Hearn to put his trousers back on, before calling O’Sullivan into the room for a chat.
Hearn began managing the snooker star while he was a promising amateur and in what was a hugely harrowing time in his life - after his father was sentenced to life in prison for murder in 1992 - he was keen for the teen to become a professional as soon as possible, in an attempt to keep him on the right path.
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Then when The Rocket’s mum was in court over tax matters, Hearn stood bail for her which was granted and shared that the 46-year-old has always been grateful to him for that gesture.
While their relationship is no longer what it once was, Hearn still admires O'Sullivan and his phenomenal snooker career. "My relationship with Ronnie may have deteriorated over the years, as he increasingly bucked authority in his sport, which I later represented, but he has always been grateful to me for helping his mum," he said.
"Ronnie would go on to dominate the game, and I rate him the greatest player of all time." O’Sullivan has gone on to win six world championships and recently reclaimed the number one ranking. He will aim to tie Stephen Hendry and win a seventh world title at the Crucible, which commences on Easter Sunday.