Can you even have a sport without a great rivalry? Tyson vs. Holyfield. Red Sox vs. Yankees. Duke vs. North Carolina. When it comes to the World’s Strongest Man, no rivalry is as savage as the beef between Eddie Hall and Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (You know him as The Mountain from “Game of Thrones”). Now, after years of throwing verbal punches online, they’ll be throwing punches for real in The Heaviest Boxing Match in History. “At the end of the day, we’re both 350-plus pounds of body weight and we fucking hate each other,” Hall says. “So there’s only one way this is going to end—knockout.”
Hall and Björnsson’s dispute began in 2017 when Hall won the title of World’s Strongest Man. Hall’s victory came after years of diligent work in the strongman circuit, culminating in his biggest career success so far. “I became obsessed,” Hall shares. “For 365 days, I never missed a training session, never missed a meal, and always got my 10 hours of sleep. There were no days off. Even if you’re feeling ill you still have to turn up and put the work in. If there was one thing I could have said at World’s Strongest Man 2017, it was that I didn’t have a single excuse.”
But it wasn’t just the year of non-stop training that led Hall to the title, he worked his entire life to reach that point. As the youngest of three brothers, everything was a competition—from racing to school to scarfing down pizza. Believe it or not, the first sport Hall succeeded in was swimming, making it to nationals four years in a row. Then at 19, he decided to give competitive bodybuilding a shot. “I realized I was never going to be Mr. Olympia like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Hall says. “So I transferred my talent to lifting heavy things and I set myself a target to become the strongest man in the world. Pretty much 10 years later to the day, I did just that.”
Unlike bodybuilding, which focuses on physique and glamour muscles, a strongman competition entails lifting different weights in a variety of ways to determine who’s the strongest. Strongman competitions are known for their numerous creative and unusual events, which include pulling planes down a runway, lifting cars off of the ground and throwing kegs over a high bar. “It’s more about functional strength,” Hall explains. “You can see it, rather than putting weight on a bar and pulling it. Nobody understands that, but everyone knows how big and heavy a truck is.”
Hall quickly realized the only way to progress in the sport was to enter competitions. He excelled at the amateur level and went on to win England’s Strongest Man at 22, then took the title of U.K.’s Strongest Man at 23 and finally qualified to compete in World’s Strongest Man at 24. “You get better at it by just doing it,” Hall says. “There’s no other way to train pulling a truck than by finding a truck, strapping yourself to it and pulling it. If you want to learn how to do something, you have to copy them and just keep plugging away at the technique.”
A strongman must be proficient in all events, but many have their favorite. Hall excels in static lifting, which is comparable to powerlifting, setting world records in the deadlift in July 2016. “Lifting 500 kilos was deemed impossible,” Hall explains. “The whole strength world thought it was a joke and would never be done. I never lifted anywhere near a half-ton, but I made sure the training I did had super good technique, was really powerful and fast off of the floor. On that day, I bunched up all that training, anger, frustration and the naysayers, putting it all in a pot and just letting it loose.”
Although Hall achieved his goal and proved to the world that it could be done, he put his health at risk to do so. Lifting can have extremely dangerous consequences and in competitions, Hall has seen people break their backs, snap their knees or collapse and have heart attacks. “I must admit, the lift did take a toll on my body,” Hall shares. “I blew blood vessels in my head, lost my vision for a couple hours and had very bad memory loss for a couple of weeks after. I put my health on the line, but any lesser of a man probably would have died.”
Less than a year after performing the world record deadlift, Hall became 2017’s World’s Strongest Man. He reached his ultimate goal and came to terms with an experience that can be a hard pill to swallow for many professional athletes. “Winning the World’s Strongest Man was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hall says. “You’ve got to come back down to reality. I won the World’s Strongest Man on a Friday, then on Saturday I flew home and was wiping my kid’s ass after a birthday party. It doesn’t make you more special than anybody else.”
Following his win, Hall struggled to adapt to his new lifestyle, but eventually, he found his footing. One of the ways he moved on was by marking this experience on his body forever through a tattoo. “My most meaningful tattoo is of Atlas on my left forearm,” Hall shares. “That’s the full logo for World’s Strongest Man, which represents the strongest man ever. On the globe, I put the trophy over Africa, which is where I won the title. It’s a reminder of what I’ve achieved in my life.”
In addition to indulging in tattoo therapy, Hall has kept the momentum from his win going through a number of media appearances. He’s grown an audience of followers by giving the world an inside look into his daily life. “I started my YouTube channel in August 2019,” Hall says. “I got into it because a few of my friends had good YouTube channels. I had a good vision for the production, hired a full-time videographer and spent about 20 grand on a camera kit.” In the year and change Hall has created content for his YouTube channel, he’s racked up an impressive 1.5 million subscribers. Through his channel, he’s introduced millions to the life of a former strongman, revisiting his 8,000 calories a day strongman diet and going head-to-head with other elite athletes in the sports of gymnastics, bodybuilding and powerlifting. He’s also used his platform to keep his fans up to date with his upcoming fight against Björnsson, which will take place in September 2021.
For the past several months, Hall has been preparing for his big boxing debut. In the past, he’s boxed for charity, but against his rival, he’s going for glory. “He called me a cheat after an event and after he was called out, it turned out he was the one trying to cheat,” Hall explains. “There’s a lot of bad blood there and the idea of us fighting has been flying around for a couple of years. Then a promoter from Dubai offered us a deal to have it out, man-to-man. I was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea,’ and after the contract was signed, I was training like a madman. I want to teach that motherfucker a lesson for calling me a cheat.”
Hall may lack years of boxing experience, but he’s an expert at training and knows what it takes to be the best in the world. Hall’s daily preparation consists of two hours of weight training, a 1.5-mile run, and then about 5 to 6 hours of boxing technique work. “I must be training well over 20 hours a week at the moment,” Hall says. “I’ve been solely focused on getting as strong, powerful and fit as possible for this boxing match.”
Hall still has many months ahead of his world fighting debut and in that time, he’ll be training to settle the score, once and for all. There’s a lot of ego riding on this match and if he comes out victorious, Hall can finally say he conquered The Mountain.