Amnesty International has raised the possibility that Saudi Arabia could host the rematch for the world heavyweight title between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
Syk featured Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September to claim the WBA, IBF and WBO belts and Ukrainian promoter Alexander Krassyuk revealed a rematch could take place in late June.
While an open-air stadium in London was seen as the preferred option, Krassyuk told BBC Sport “talks” are taking place with officials from Saudi Arabia, which continues to face severe scrutiny of its human rights record.
Joshua was criticized for fighting there when he reclaimed his world titles by beating Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019, with Saudi Arabia accused of trying to “sportingly wash” his international reputation.
Peter Frankental, business director at Amnesty International UK, said: “If these early talks result in another high-profile fight in Saudi Arabia, it will prove once again that Saudi Arabia’s huge appetite for sportswear is far from satisfied.”
Formula One returned to Jeddah last weekend following the Gulf kingdom’s debut in the sport in December, but Lewis Hamilton admitted to feeling uneasy about the human rights issues there.
Last Friday, human rights group Reprieve said another 16 people had been killed since the March 12 mass execution of 81 men, more than half of whom had taken part in pro-democracy protests, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
A Saudi-led coalition’s military conflict in neighboring Yemen and the October 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey also drew sharp condemnations.
Frankental added: “Saudi Arabia’s human rights record remains disastrous – dissenters are severely punished, human rights defenders are prosecuted and imprisoned, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen is waging a chilling campaign of airstrikes that have repeatedly killed civilians .
“After Saudi authorities executed a shocking 81 people in a single day earlier this month, it’s likely that Riyadh will see the glitz and raw hype of a Joshua Usyk fight as a useful sports washing exercise that could help quell any outrage over.” reduce executions.
“As this fight continues, we want Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk and their respective teams to approach it with a real willingness to speak out on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia and to challenge the harmful effects of big-money sports laundering.”
Another fight between Joshua and Usyk was scheduled for the spring, but that was put on hold when the latter returned to Ukraine to enlist amid the Russian invasion.
However, last week he signaled his intention to start training for the rematch.
“Saudi is the place we are having talks with at the moment,” Krassyuk told the BBC. “Late June is the date we are looking at. Nothing is confirmed on paper. We’re working on it.
“There are other options, but we’re going step by step.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/boxing/anthony-joshua-v-oleksandr-usyk-saudi-arabias-enormous-appetite-for-sportswashing-is-nowhere-near-sated-yet-41500075.html Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk: “Saudi Arabia’s Huge Appetite For Sportswear Is Far From Satisfying”