Boxer Anthony Joshua is the latest sports figure under pressure from the media and sports community to condemn the country of Saudi Arabia after confirming that his next fight will take place in Jeddah.
The rematch between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk is finally set. The two will meet on August 20th in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with Usyk’s unified heavyweight titles on the line. The two fought last September in London with Usyk outboxing Joshua in his home country over 12 rounds to take the fight by unanimous decision (117-112, 116-112, and 115-113).
For Joshua, this is the second rematch of his that has taken place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Back in December 2019, Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz Jr. in the rematch of their MSG Classic bout to regain his titles in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
Going back to Saudi Arabia however, has left many members of the media upset because the boxer is taking millions of dollars without acknowledging the “human rights violations” in the country.
During a press conference , Joshua was asked if he was concerned with the country using him to “sports wash” their human rights violations. “Sportwashing” is a term used to describe authoritarian regimes using sports to soften their image abroad and distract from their human rights abuses.
“I don’t know what that is,” Joshua said.
“I’m here to win the heavyweight champion of the world. I like Saudi. I think Saudi’s good. I’m having a good time here. I’m treated really well. All that allegation stuff, for me, I’m not caught up in any of that stuff,” Joshua continued.
“I’m here to have a good time, mix with the local people, and bring entertainment to Saudi.”
The world title fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk will attract a massive $80 million purse from the Kingdom to host the rematch.
The Daily Star has revealed  the purse will sum surpassing the $60 million paid to host Joshua’s rematch against Andy Ruiz in 2019. The pair will split the purse 50-50 but this will also be subject to undercard costs meaning that they will not earn 50% of the full $80 million.
Progressives in the media have attacked the Saudi Arabian government for the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist working in the United States covering the Saudi government and royal family. Saudi Arabia is also one of the many muslim dominant countries that outlaw LGBTQ+ imagery and execute members of the LGBTQ+ community in their country.
Rights group Amnesty International has openly criticized  the Kingdom for “their zero-tolerance policy on freedom of expression and assisting the authorities in denying people’s right to freely access information.”
Joshua however believes his fights are having a positive impact on changing the culture of the fundamentalist nation. “It’s positive to hear some good changes are happening here because of the impact we made,” said Joshua.
“I’m here first and foremost to do a job, win. Everyone loves a winner. Secondly, it is to entertain. I need to entertain the spectators How do we bring tourism here? I know there are some amazing projects for tourism, people can come to Jeddah to see the amazing things that are happening here for the sport,” he continued.
Over the last few years, the Saudi Government has established deals with major boxing promotions such as Matchroom Boxing as well as establishing two massive events a year with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
A few years ago, the government implemented the “Saudi Vision 2030” plan, which is a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
Bringing massive sporting events to the Kingdom is considered a major part of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan.
What are your thoughts on Anthony Joshua’s decision to take the fight in Jeddah?