Thousands of British boxing fans descend on Saudi Arabia for Joshua v Ruiz match

Thousands of British boxing fans descend on Saudi Arabia for Joshua v Ruiz match
Around 5,000 tickets have been sold to British fans so far to attend the controversial rematch in Saudi Arabia.
2 min read
03 December, 2019
Critics have slammed the boxer for agreeing to fight in Saudi Arabia [Getty]
Thousands of British boxing fans are due to jet into Riyadh this week to attend a controversial rematch between heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz in the ultraconservative kingdom.

Devotees from more than 60 countries have purchased tickets to attend the much anticipated "Clash of the Dunes" rematch, set to take place in a purpose-built arena in Diriyah.

British fans will make up half of those attending the match, Saudi Arabia's state news agency reported.

Around half of the 11,000 seats sold so far have gone to British fans.

The British champion boxer fought Ruiz in New York in June, where a shock seventh-round stoppage stripped AJ of his world titles in his first professional loss.

Anthony Joshua - known to fans as AJ - and his promoter Eddie Hearn have come under fire for their decision to host the rematch in Saudi Arabia.

Read more: Brutal complicity - Why Joshua-Ruiz rematch must not be held in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh reportedly offered AJ and Hearn $100 million for the match to be held in Saudi Arabia - far more than anything offered by more traditional boxing venues like Madison Square Garden in New York and the Millennium Stadium in the Welsh capital Cardiff.

Critics have slammed the former world heavyweight champion for taking money from the ultraconservative kingdom, with rights activists pointing to its record of imprisoning, torturing, and killing political dissidents.

Amnesty International has said the boxing match would give Saudi Arabia "yet another opportunity for the Saudi authorities to try to 'sportswash' their severely tarnished image".

"Civil society has been silenced in Saudi Arabia. Anyone critical of the regime has been exiled, arrested, or threatened. There isn't any semblance of free speech or the right to protest," Felix Jakens, Amnesty's Head of Campaigns, said in a statement earlier this month.

"If, for example, Joshua were to say something about the outrageous jailing of the Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, this could provide an important reminder to the authorities that her plight is not going to be overlooked around the world."

British heavyweight boxer Dillian Whyte is also set to appear at the Diriyah match.

Whyte's brother was among several travellers on a Riyadh-bound flight on Monday who had to scramble to restrain a man who attempted to open the aircraft's cabin door mid-air while suffering a panic attack.

Also onboard was AJ's mother, Yeta Odusanya.

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