The December 7 rematch of Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr has comeunder scathing criticism from Amnesty International.
This is coming after the bout was commissioned to take place in Saudi Arabia as Amnesty International sees the bout as a sort of ‘sportswash’ of Saudi Image after human rights violations, especially in the the ongoing war in Yemen and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The fight will take place on the on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh in Diriyah after it was approved by the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organisation on Friday
Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, Felix Jakens, said: ‘Joshua should inform himself of the human rights situation and be prepared to speak out about Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record.
‘If Anthony Joshua fights Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia, it’s likely to be yet another opportunity for the Saudi authorities to try to ‘sportswash’ their severely tarnished image.
Sportswashing is the act of hosting major sporting events to help shield attention away from the state in question’s political practices.
‘Despite some long-overdue reforms on women’s rights, Saudi Arabia is currently in the grip of a sweeping human rights crackdown, with women’s rights activists, lawyers and members of the Shia minority community all being targeted.
Saudi Arabia has branched into other major sporting events in recent years, hosting the Italian Super Cup in 2018, and it will do so again in December.
It has also played host to an October friendly between Brazil and Argentina
The Joshua-Ruiz Jr rematch will not be the first heavyweight showdown with political repercussions, with Muhammad Ali having famously defeated George Foreman in the then Zaire (now DR Congo) back in 1974.
Zaire’s dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, was convinced that the event, which became known as The Rumble in the Jungle, would provide positive publicity for his controversial regime.
Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was also heavily involved as a financial sponsor and provided the purse money for both fighters.