Eddie Hearn has defended the decision to stage Anthony Joshuas WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz Jnr in Saudi Arabia despite the backlash from human rights organisations and predicted that the negative publicity could make more people watch the fight
Eddie Hearn has defended the decision to stage Anthony Joshuas WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia despite the backlash from human rights organisations and predicted that the negative publicity could make more people watch the fight.
Amnesty International have been among the groups to accuse the Saudi authorities of trying to sportswash their image by paying 83m to take the fight, which is being billed as the Clash of the Dunes to Diriyah, on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh, on 7 December.
However Hearn made light of the criticisms by saying his may concern was with growing the sport of boxing in the Middle East.
We have to realise there is another world out there outside Cardiff and Madison Square Garden, he said. And we have an obligation to grow the sport of boxing to new areas and new regions. For me this event could change boxing forever because if Saudia Arabia are going to invest in these type of fights, with the population they have, you could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport, and that is something that really truly excites me.
Amnestys UKs head of campaigns, Felix Jakens, has called for Joshua to inform himself of the human rights situation and be prepared to speak out about Saudi Arabias abysmal human rights record. They have also cited concerns over the human rights abuses, the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ongoing war in Yemen as further evidence that the country has not changed.
However Hearn insisted that his focus was on boxing rather than human rights and, after stressing that other sports had also come to Saudi Arabia, also suggested that negative publicity could make the fight more of a curiosity.
Quite frankly the logistical side blew our mind, he said. There is a new open-air stadium for this fight with room for 12,000 people. And look at the events and the organisations who have been there before us. Many of these we spoke to. Formula One, with the Formula A. The European golf tour. The Italian Super Cup. The World Boxing Super Series. The WWE. Everyone has enjoyed the experience from a fan experience and from a logistical experience and that is very important to us.
So for those making the trip it will be an incredible experience, he added. There will be events and music festivals around the event itself. This is such a huge occasion for boxing, an iconic moment for boxing. And with the response we have seen mainly good, some negative I guarantee you, with curiosity, the whole world will be watching this fight on December 7. I know Saudi Arabia will doing everything they can to make this an event that takes your breath away.
Hearn dismissed concerns that women would not be able to travel to Saudi Arabia – and said that everyone who bought a ticket would get a 30-day visa for the country. He also said that internet reports that Ruiz had not agreed to fight in Saudi Arabia were incorrect. They have 100% signed for the fight, he added.
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