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Saudi to host Joshua-Usyk heavyweight title rematch

Anthony Joshua lost his titles to Oleksandr Usyk when they first met last year Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Anthony Joshua, left, lost his titles to Oleksandr Usyk when they first met last year
  • Fight between Ukrainian and Briton to be held in Jeddah
  • Part of kingdom’s ambition to host sporting events and boost tourism

Saudi Arabia confirmed today that it will host the world heavyweight boxing clash between champion Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua on August 20 as the kingdom cements its status as a global sporting destination. 

In a statement, the Ministry of Sports announced that the Red Sea city of Jeddah will host the rematch between the Ukrainian and British fighters following Usyk’s victory in London last September.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, who heads the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic committee, said the event is a “source of pride to Saudi Arabia” and is the latest international sports event to take place in the kingdom.

Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Boxing, added: “We’re thrilled to get one of the biggest heavyweight rematches in boxing history, and give Anthony Joshua the chance to reclaim what he lost in London last September. 

“It was a huge success to host Joshua’s contest with Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia in 2019 and we’re looking forward to working with the country again to stage this historic event.”

Saudi Arabia is committed to building its sporting reputation further. The Ministry of Sport and the Ministry of Tourism have set an ambitious target for sports to contribute 0.6 percent of GDP by 2030, up from approximately 0.2 percent today, with the purpose of also boosting international tourism numbers.

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of major sporting events hosted by Saudi Arabia, including the inaugural Formula 1 race in Jeddah last year, several world championship boxing events and the Saudi International golf tournament.

That’s not to mention the breakaway LIV Golf series, backed by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), who also own Newcastle United Football Club. 

Hanan Alowain, partner for the government and public sector at KPMG in Saudi Arabia, said: “Saudi Arabia appears to have begun a new chapter in its sports tourism history.

“Countries like Saudi are advancing agendas to build a sporting culture that attracts domestic and international tourists. This requires a vast effort. 

“Saudi and its peers need to take a close look at what unique qualities their country has to offer sports tourists.

“These qualities start with geography, but are certainly not limited to it. Thoughtful planning and investment — with the help of today’s technology — can foster just about any sport, anywhere.”

Michael Bessey, GCC regional representative for global public affairs consulting firm ASG, told AGBI: “The focus on sports is being driven by a combination of economics and geopolitics. 

“The Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, see the sports and entertainment sector as an engine for economic diversification.

“Major international sporting events are an opportunity to invest in public infrastructure projects and attract international tourism flows. 

“Saudi Arabia has been particularly aggressive in using sports diplomacy to build relations internationally and tout the extent of its economic and cultural progress under Vision 2030 – to mixed results.”  

PwC research shows that while the growth of the global sports market is expected to slow to three percent over the next few years, the Middle East region is forecast to see growth of 8.7 percent over the same period.

According to PwC, the GCC states have spent more than £50 billion on sports development, with more to come.

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