Editor's letter | Issue | Premium | Jan 28 2020

Return to Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia is far from an ideal location but unifying the division has to be priority, writes Matt Christie
Saudi Arabia
Action Images/Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

EDDIE HEARN this week indicated that should the February 22 rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder produce a definitive winner, and Anthony Joshua gets past Kubrat Pulev in May or June, a huge offer will be made to stage a gargantuan Joshua-Fury/Wilder winter showdown. Which is of course wonderful news if you ignore the following: We’ve heard this all before; Hearn is not in the Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder business; Fury and Wilder have reportedly already agreed a third bout; Joshua and Pulev are yet to agree terms; and, the piece of the jigsaw that drew the most criticism, it will be hosted by Saudi Arabia.

It would appear, like it or not, that the Middle East will remain a key player in the boxing market for the foreseeable future purely because it can generate cash for the fighters, their teams and the broadcasters, that other nations cannot compete with. Yet doesn’t it seem like a crying shame, particularly if Joshua and Fury are the two men left standing after the next round of fights, and are in agreement to do battle, that Britain will not be in the running to stage what would be the biggest fight in its history? 

In boxing terms, it would be bigger than the World Cup final. It would dominate the news and the world’s attention. In the region of 100,000 fans would attend. The atmosphere in and around the stadium would be electric. Pay-per-view numbers would be off the scale. It would, surely, have great benefit to the sport and the economy in this country. Instead, the event would be staged to showcase what a wonderful place Saudi Arabia is, when the truth is it’s not.

Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia
Anthony Joshua won his titles back in Saudi Arabia Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing