Boxing

Anthony Joshua refuses to criticise Saudi Arabia ahead of title fight

‘I don’t know what sportswashing is’: Anthony Joshua insists he ‘likes’ Saudi Arabia and refuses to criticise the country’s regime ahead of his rematch against Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah… as heavyweight star says: ‘I’m here to have a good time’

  • Heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua says he ‘doesn’t know’ what sportswashing
  • He ‘likes’ Saudi Arabia despite scrutiny over the regime’s human rights record
  • Joshua is looking to win his title back against Usyk at the Jeddah Super Dome
  • AJ said he is ‘here to have a good time’ in Saudi and that he is ‘treated well’

Anthony Joshua has refused to criticise the Saudi regime despite the country facing mounting pressure over its human rights record, saying he he ‘doesn’t know’ what sportswashing is. 

Heayvweight star Joshua will looking to win back the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight belts he lost to Oleksandr Usyk when he faces the Ukrainian boxer again at the Jeddah Super Dome on August 20.

Saudi Arabia has come into the spotlight of late after its heavy involvement in sport – with the Saudi-backed Public Investment Fund taking over Newcastle United, while they country has also staged Formula One races and backed a controversial new LIV Golf series that has caused a huge stir within the sport.

The country’s regime has come under fire over their human rights record – as well as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – with many activists campaigning against Saudi Arabia hosting lucrative events such as Joshua’s world title fights. 

When asked about the current situation in Saudi Arabia, Joshua was keen to keep his focus on his huge fight at the first official press conference and said he was just there to ‘have a good time, mix with the local people and bring entertainment to Saudi Arabia’.

Speaking about the fight’s location and the country’s human rights record, Joshua said: ‘I don’t know what that [sportswashing] is. 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. 

Anthony Joshua says he ‘doesn’t know’ what sportswashing is and insist he ‘likes’ Saudi Arabia

Joshua will looking to win back the belts he lost to Oleksandr Usyk on August 20 of this year

Eddie Hearn recently announced that the fight would take place at the Jeddah Super Dome

‘All that allegation stuff, for me, I’m not caught up in any of that stuff. I’m here to have a good time, mix with the local people, bring entertainment to Saudi.’ 

Joshua’s comments about the fight in Saudi Arabia come amid the controversy surrounding the inaugural LIV Golf series event. 

Players signing up to the LIV series have received criticism and have been widely condemned because of the human rights abuses carried out by the Saudi regime, which is financing LIV to the tune of $2billion.

Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are among the other stars who have signed up to LIV Golf and they all played in the tour’s inaugural event at Centurion Club earlier this month, won by 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Schwartzel took home £3.2m in prize money for his win at the 54-hole event, which is more than the £2.5m won by England’s Matt Fitzpatrick for triumphing at the US Open, one of golf’s traditional and most prestigious four major championships. 

 AJ’s comments come amid the mass scrutiny surrounding the inaugural LIV Golf series event

Joshua has previously fought in Saudi Arabia – facing Andy Ruiz Jr in Riyadh in December 2019

The athletes have come under-fire for their involvement in the event as fans believe the tournament was created to detract attention from the country’s human rights record. 

AJ is due to face Usyk for a second time this year after losing his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts on a unanimous points decision in front of a sell-out crowd at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September last year. 

Joshua immediately triggered the rematch clause in their contract after his loss and Eddie Hearn recently announced that the fight will take place at the Jeddah Super Dome later this year. 

The 32-year-old found against Andy Ruiz Jr in Riyadh in December 2019 – after previously losing to him at Madison Square Garden in New York earlier that year. 

Meanwhile, Usyk dismissed claims that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had given him extra motivation for the fight. 

Joshua insists he is ‘treated really well’ in Saudi Arabia and wants to ‘mix with local people’ 

Meanwhile, Usyk dismissed claims that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had given him extra motivation for the fight

‘My friends, people close to me, have died in the war. When so many people are suffering I don’t have any idea how it can influence anything positively,’ Usyk said. 

‘I was there for one month, I saw with my own eyes what happened there: rockets flying and fighter jets flying. It’s horrible.’

Joshua paid his respects by saying: ‘Big up to Usyk, the Klitschko brothers, everyone in Ukraine. I know it’s been tough, but tough times don’t last. 

‘Keep your heads up, the world’s watching. The world’s in support… anyone that’s going through tough times we’re always with them so especially the Ukrainian people right now.’ 




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