Boxing looked dead and buried with the birth of YouTube boxing and the rise of the UFC, but Saudi Arabia has rose the sport from the ashes and brought big-time boxing back to our screens.
Fans have grown tired of watching one sided fights and listening to fighters make up excuses on why they’re not fighting the other champions.
So many have swapped the sport we love for the YouTube boxing circus and the UFC where the fighters are forced into fighting the best, but big fight nights are back and they have a new home in Saudi Arabia.
There has been outrage from the boxing community since Tyson Fury’s (34-0-1, 24 KOs) long-awaited showdown with Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) was announced to be taking place in Riyadh on February 17th.
But is boxing’s new home any worse than the money laundering, drug dealer hotspot of Las Vegas that profits millions every year from gambling in casinos?Embed from Getty Images
Above: Fury and Usyk came head-to-head at an announcement press conference last week ahead of their showdown next month. Photo by Getty Images.
Casinos across Nevada made a record $14.8 billion in gambling revenue in 2022, The Las Vegas Strip alone took $8.28 billion according to Forbes.
Yet after a record-breaking year Las Vegas Casinos are being outbid by the Saudis who are willing to fork out millions to put on the biggest events and pay the fighters life changing money to revive the sport.
Saudi Arabia have been involved with big time boxing since hosting the highly anticipated rematch between Anthony Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) and Andy Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) in Diriyah in 2019.
Since then, their influence has grown and grown with them hosting fights such as Usyk vs Joshua II, Jake Paul (7-1, 4 KOs) vs Tommy Fury (10-0, 4 KOs) and most recently Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou (0-1, 0 KOs).
Their influence is undoubtedly powered by the money they are willing to pay fighters to bring boxing’s biggest events to Saudi Arabia.
Ngannou recently said he earned more in his boxing match against Fury than in all his previous UFC fights combined.
This money has made boxings biggest rivalries put aside their differences and work together, something the boxing world has been demanding for years.
Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren have been in a promotional battle for well over a decade and had reportedly never met until recently when a mouth-watering “Day of Reckoning” card was announced in London last week.
The two have “put their differences aside” to work on a huge card with the likes of Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs), Joseph Parker (33-3, 23 KOs), Daniel Dubois (19-2, 18 KOs), Dimitrii Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) and Jai Opetaia (23-0, 18 KOs) all featuring.
This kind of event would have been a fantasy not long ago, but the Saudis have forced fighters and promoters to put their egos aside and the sport is reaping the rewards.
Joshua and Wilder both held versions of the heavyweight world championship simultaneously for a period of just over three years and couldn’t come to an agreement to unify the division.
Now with the Saudis influence not only will we have an undisputed heavyweight world champion in 2024, but it looks like the blockbuster showdown between Joshua and Wilder is now imminent if both win their respective fights on December 23rd.
Indeed, the Saudis will continue to take criticism for their view on human rights, but boxing and other sports making their home there will only help highlight the issues and promote change.
The fights fans have craved for are finally being made, undercards are stacked full of stars and most importantly the fighters are making generational wealth. Saudi Arabia is changing our sport for the good.