Promoter Eddie Hearn is ready for the backlash but comfortable with his decision as Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title fight with Oleksandr Usyk is set to take place in Saudi Arabia.
An official announcement of the rematch is expected next week with August 20 the most likely date for the bout, the PA news agency understands.
Joshua lost on points to Usyk back in September at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and his bid to win back the WBA, IBF and WBO titles is set to take place in Saudi Arabia, which could spark more controversy following the scrutiny placed on golf in recent days.
A number of major winners are playing in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, a £20million event – the most lucrative golf tournament in history – backed by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund which has seen those involved criticised due to the country’s poor human rights record.
Hearn, who took Joshua there in 2019 for his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, said: “I am very comfortable, particularly in boxing, with decisions that we make like that for many different reasons.
“Firstly, we’ve done it before and it was a huge success. I’ve seen actually the work that has gone in to make a major sporting event for the region. It is not a game of golf.
“I am not saying the golfers shouldn’t play in this tournament but what I am saying is this is a prize fight where contractually with this we have to go to the venue that ultimately creates the most amount of revenue for the fight whether AJ likes it or not, but it is not even close.
“It is not like there is a little bit of difference (financially) to do it in London. It is a whole stratosphere.
“What these golfers have to do is sit down and say ‘I was excited by this project – which they genuinely could have been – I wanted to have my own destiny in terms of my schedule and I am making a lot of money’, because they are missing that bit out.
“Boxing is different because boxing is a sport where we all expect these guys to go in, have a fight in front of all these people around the world in a potentially damaging environment for them and I have to make sure they make as much money as possible. That is my obligation and I am doing that.
“I have experienced it, I have enjoyed it and will be doing it again. The golf conversation, it is different because it is a game of golf, but they just have got to be honest. You can still be excited. I am excited to do another show in Saudi, the first one was unbelievable.
“They built a stadium from the ground up in 10 or 11 weeks. We are ready for the questions and I will answer them as honestly as before.”
Hearn says Joshua will not be worried about scrutiny over his decision to return to Saudi Arabia, where in March it was reported by human-rights group Amnesty International that 81 people had been executed in a single day.
Ahead of his 2019 bout with Ruiz Jr, the British heavyweight said Saudi Arabia was “trying to do a good job politically”.
Hearn, speaking before a press conference in London for Derek Chisora’s fight with Kubrat Pulev, said: “I understand the other opinions coming back but we see it from a slightly different angle and the Middle East, not just Saudi, is going to be a massive region for boxing.
“No, AJ isn’t worried because he has experienced it all before, he has gone through the whole process before and will ultimately go, ‘Eddie over to you, I am going to train’.
“And again, I am not passing the buck and saying his hands were tied, but it is a very different deal when you have a 50-50 split with another fighter where the basis of the contract is to maximise the revenue of the fight.”