Heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk will face Briton Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia on August 20 in a rematch of their London bout last year. The fight is being billed as one of the biggest heavyweight rematches in the history of the sport. Prince Fahad Bin Abdelaziz, spokesperson for global rights holder for the world heavyweight championship Skill Challenge Entertainment, speaks about the importance of hosting major sports events in the Kingdom to inspire future generations at a grassroots level.
Gulf News: Thanks to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has become the new global hub of sports and is arguably the fastest growing sports market in the world with a busy calendar of major events. How important is sport to Saudi Arabia’s wider transformation?
Prince Fahad Bin Abdelaziz: Sport and entertainment play a central role in Vision 2030, the strategy behind the nation’s transformation. The country’s esteemed leadership are truly invested in the impact sport can have in improving the lives of its people and we are fully aligned to support the transformation. The changes already implanted have already had a massive impact on people in our country. You can really sense how excited Saudis are to see some of the world’s biggest sports events take place in the Kingdom.
Gulf News: Tell us about how hosting the fight aligns with the broader ambition to grow boxing in Saudi Arabia?
One of the major reasons to host events like this here in the Kingdom is to inspire the locals and future generations at a grassroots level. Since the last fight, Clash of the Dunes, in 2019, we’ve witnessed a 300% increase in men and women participating in boxing and the number of boxing gyms increase from seven to 59. Through hosting further events like this, including the first women’s boxing championships, we aim to inspire over 500,000 individuals to take up the sport in the next four years.
Gulf News: What do you hope to achieve from hosting World Heavyweight Championship? What would you say are your main objectives?
A key achievement will be to inspire the nation and region to try the sport and hopefully fall in love with it like so many already have. Alongside this we want to showcase the true Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world: the wonderful people, the countries transformation, the beauty of the landscape on the Red Sea.
Hosting the World Heavyweight Championship is a culmination of everything happening in the Kingdom at the moment. The changes and transformation as result of Vision 2030 inspires us to host some of the biggest global sporting events like this. This was really behind what gave us at Skill Challenge Entertainment the ambition to deliver this event and showcase Saudi globally.
Gulf News: What did you make of the two press conferences so far? Do you have any personal highlights from them?
Both press conferences were special moments, once again putting Jeddah and Saudi on the global map. Announcing the year’s biggest fight was happening right here in Jeddah was of course a highlight, as well as showcasing Jeddah and Saudi Arabia’s beauty to global media.
Gulf News: The promo shoot is talked about a lot and fans across the world are very excited to see it, can you tell us what that experience was like and what can people expect from it?
There was an immense amount of pride during the filming of the promo video. For the main part of the video, Anthony Joshua and Usyk met face to face in the historical part of Jeddah alongside 300 locals which gave a glimpse into the excitement the locals have towards us hosting this event in the Kingdom.
The fighters embraced the moment and bounced of the incredible atmosphere created. They both commented on how amazing the historical area of Jeddah was, it felt incredible to be there for that moment and we hope everyone loves it as much as we all loved creating it.
Gulf News: Do you have any message for fans in Saudi Arabia and across the region? And why should they come to the fight on 20 August?
Rage on the Red Sea is set to be one of this year’s biggest sporting moments globally, happening right here on our doorstep. I encourage you to be part of history and come to the fight, you will have an incredible time. We are all ambitious and continue to push boundaries so fans coming to Jeddah on August 20th can expect the unexpected!