Promoter Eddie Hearn does not believe that it is in the interest of most prizefighters to plan their careers around a potential offer to fight in Saudi Arabia.
The Oil Kingdom has lately emerged as a top destination for some of the biggest fights by brandishing incredible sums of money to promoters and their fighters. Under Turki Alalshikh, the head of the General Authority for Entertainment, the country has hosted the heavyweight crossover bout between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou in October and will put on a heavyweight bonanza this Saturday featuring Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder in separate bouts.
Saudi Arabia is also set to stage the undisputed heavyweight championship between Fury and unified champion Oleksandr Usyk in February. And there have been rumors that should Joshua and Wilder come out victorious this Saturday that they could finally meet in the ring in March.
But while some of the biggest stars and champions in boxing may understandably try to see if they can fetch a career high payday from the Saudis, Matchroom’s Hearn, who promotes Joshua, suggested it would be foolhardy for the less heralded to expect that there will opportunities for them in that country as well.
“I don’t think—and this may be contrary to the vision of his excellency—I don’t see there being 10, 12 shows a year there,” Hearn said on The Boxing with Chris Mannix Podcast. “I see it working around the weather, the tourism, the Riyadh seasons, etc.”
“I think there will be a more advanced plan for boxing but right now it just feels to me they just want to bring their perception of the best fighters and the best fights to the kingdom,” Hearn continued. “I don’t think you’re going to see super featherweight world championships. You may do on the undercards, but I don’t think fighters should hedge their bets and sit out for a year and hope that they’re going to get a phone call. Do you know what I mean?
“They’re (Saudi Arabia) going to be in the market for the big fights, they’re going to be in the market for the big names and every now and again someone is going to get lucky because someone watched someone who they think is great and entertaining. It’s a pretty wild world.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.