Anthony Joshua has said he would ‘definitely be bothered’ by what boxing media are describing as attempted ‘sports-washing’ by the Saudi Arabian government.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of trying to gloss over their human rights issues with numerous high-profile sporting events. With Joshua’s eagerly-anticipated rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr. taking place in Driyah on Saturday, Joshua has expressed his discomfort with being a political pawn – ‘if that were the case.’
“If that was the case I would definitely have to say I would be bothered – but my only focus is the boxing,” Joshua told the BBC.
“I feel like taking boxing globally is what a world champion should be doing. You fight around the world.”
Saudi Arabia’s ‘Vision 2030’, an initiative designed to help the country move from an oil-dependent economy, has already played host to golf’s European tour and WWE events. Joshua’s promotor, Eddie Hearn, has no such concerns.
“No individual, journalist or media outlet can possibly tell a fighter where they can or can’t go to earn money in a sport like this.
“We can’t be seen to be endorsing anything other than our job to provide life-changing opportunities for our clients who take part in one of the most barbaric and dangerous sport that exists.
🔊😅 Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua had another face-off at the Diriyah Arena following their press conference today. AJ just casually asked Ruiz Jr: “So what’s the strategy to beat you?”
— Michael Benson (@MichaelBensonn) December 4, 2019
The controversy has detracted attention for what is one of the most anticipated bouts of the year. Ruiz shocked the world by beating the previously undefeated Joshua in June, but Watford-born Joshua does not intend to slip-up twice.
“How much do I want it? A whole heap. But not to prove anything to anyone, just to prove it to myself. When I win, I am not going to be too surprised as I believe this is my destiny and I belong in this position.
Joshua v Ruiz II takes place at 9pm GMT on Saturday. You can watch the fight on Sky Sports Box Office or follow coverage on BBC 5 Live Radio.
Words by Micah Chudleigh