The highly anticipated British boxing bout between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, dubbed the ‘fight of the century’, will be staged in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
However, the choice of location for the world heavyweight title match has been met with criticism from human rights campaigners, with the fiance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in October 2018, branding the decision to host the fight in Saudi Arabia as ‘shameful’ last month.
Rodney Dixon QC, the lawyer of Hatice Cengiz, commented that his client ‘urged the organisers to resist the temptations of big prize money and stand instead for justice’, adding that it is ‘not too late to do the right thing’.
Hearn told Sky Sports during an interview: “7 August, 14 August. It’s a very bad secret that the fight is happening in Saudi Arabia. I don’t mind giving that information, Bob Arum’s already done it.
“It’s the same people we did the deal with for Andy Ruiz, that event was spectacular. As partners, they were fantastic as well, so we’re very comfortable.
“We’re very comfortable. Anthony’s comfortable, he knows those people. They delivered on every one of their promises last time, we’re ready to go.”
Joshua, who beat Andy Ruiz on the outskirts of the Saudi capital of Riyadh in December 2019 to reclaim the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, reportedly said he was ‘very comfortable’ with the fight being staged in Saudi Arabia.
According to Fury, the bout had drawn interest from ‘Qatar, Uzbekistan, Russia, America, England’, with Chris Evans, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on boxing, suggesting that the UK should’ve done more to bring the all-British bout and a ‘historic moment’ in the sport to London’s Wembley Stadium.
Furthermore, Hearn added that 14 August had been earmarked as the preferable date so as to avoid a clash with the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“In terms of a global spectacle, it would make sense to go on the 14th,” Hearn continued. “That’s one of the other things to tick off, hopefully, in the next few days.”
Fury’s USA promoter Bob Arum initially told The Telegraph at the end of April that the fight was ‘dead in the water’, due to the complications with the fight, believed to be the ‘richest fight in British boxing history’, taking place in Saudi Arabia after the country offered £107 million to host the bout.
“It will take months for the Saudis to do their due diligence on such a huge deal,” he remarked. “It is not just a site fee, there are ancillary demands from the Saudis stretching into the broadcast deals and other things, it could take months for it all to play out. It could even take until 2022 the way it looks right now.”
Hearn added on the news: “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen this week. This is kind of like the moment where you could actually turn around at this point and say ‘this is dragging on too long, or I can’t be dealing with this anymore’.
“But we have to nail this, and I’m not going to stop until I nail it, and everyone has just got to move forward collectively. It is inevitable, but at the same time, we’ve got to close the door on it.”