Andy Ruiz Jr-Anthony Joshua rematch in Saudi Arabia could ‘change boxing forever’

Updated 12 August 2019

Andy Ruiz Jr-Anthony Joshua rematch in Saudi Arabia could ‘change boxing forever’

  • Promoter Eddie Hearn believes Kingdom has potential to host future high-profile events
  • Hearn praises vision and commitment of Saudi Arabia to the sport of boxing

LONDON: The Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua world heavyweight championship bout being held at a custom-built venue in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, has the potential to “change boxing forever,” according to fight promoter Eddie Hearn.

Having lost his three world heavyweight IBF, WBA and WBO titles after a shock loss to Ruiz in June, Joshua is seeking to reclaim the belts in the Kingdom on Dec. 7.

Speaking at the Savoy Hotel in London to officially announce the Kingdom as the location for the eagerly anticipated rematch, Hearn called the fight the “biggest of the year” with the potential to match the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in 1974, and the “Thrilla in Manila” between Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975.

“There has been a lot of talk about where this fight would be held — we had approaches from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi,” Hearn said.

“For us, we really wanted to go somewhere that believed in the sport of boxing, who had a vision for the sport, and I was lucky enough to attend the World Super Series final in Jeddah. It was a fantastic event — not just the logistical set-up, but also the vibrancy of the crowd and the interest in the sport, so we already knew Saudi Arabia was keen to invest in the sport of boxing.

“We have an obligation to grow the sport in new areas and new regions, and for me, this event could change boxing forever,” he added.

Talking about the driving force behind the decision to choose Saudi Arabia as a location, Hearn admitted Ruiz wanted a neutral venue and would not fight in the UK, and said the attractive offer for the fighters from the Kingdom’s sporting authorities was a factor.

But he was full of praise of the potential for the Kingdom to be a top class boxing venue, using high-profile events to grow the sport at grassroots level.

“Anthony has always had the mindset of fighting all around the world, he’s been to this region before and he holidays not far away, and (was convinced) once he saw the vision, the stadium and the plans,” Hearn told Arab News.

“We are so naive if we think boxing is just Great Britain and America, and if Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region also decide to invest in boxing then the whole game is about to change.

“A lot of territories contacted us about one-off events, which would be the first time they have hosted boxing and they just wanted to do a massive event, it is different in Saudi Arabia.

“They have gyms in place, there is participation in the sport, they have staged other world championship events and, as a promoter, I want to be in there before everybody else.

“When we realized Saudi Arabia was serious about boxing we looked into the logistical side and that blew our mind as well,” he added.

Omar Khalil, the managing partner of Skill Challenge Entertainment — the group working with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing company — confirmed that fans who bought tickets for the fight would receive automatic entry visas to the Kingdom for 30 days.

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Updated 19 August 2019

Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star eyes path to Tokyo 2020 Olympics

  • Dalma Malhas ‘honored’ to be part of national team
  • Equestrian star began riding aged four

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s showjumping star Dalma Malhas is counting down to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by competing in a series of crucial qualifying events.

Malhas, who has been riding since the age of four, told Arab News that she was honored to be part of the Saudi national team after “years of work and dedication.”

Next month she and her fellow showjumpers head to Morocco to take part in a series of qualifying events.

The 10th edition of the Morocco Royal Tour takes place in three cities — Tetouan, Rabat, and Eljadida —  on three consecutive weekends. The top two teams, based on their results, will qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Malhas wants to be at the prestigious sporting event in Japan. 

“The work that has been done in the past few years will manifest itself now and I’m enjoying what I’ve been working on ... I believe in destiny and hard work,” she told Arab News. “Anything could happen, but I’m hopeful and trying to focus on peak performance because it is important that, when it comes to the horse and myself, we want to be there, energetic and motivated.”

She was the first female athlete from the Kingdom to compete at an Olympic-level event, riding at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 in Singapore and winning a bronze medal. She participated in the 14-18 age group, becoming only the third Saudi athlete to snag an Olympic medal.

She said it was easy to buy a horse that was already trained and compete with it. But the challenge for her was to get an inexperienced horse and train him from scratch.

“I dedicated time, effort and energy. I had a vision of how he could be and transformed him into a skilled and talented horse, and step-by-step I followed that. You build a strong partnership when you go through that process. It’s an affinity you can’t really buy. This is a very big part of horsemanship and one of my biggest achievements since the Youth Olympic Games. It’s priceless, having a combination and partnership like this.”

Malhas was born in 1992 in the US. Her mother, Arwa Mutabagani, is a prominent equestrian and has been a board member at the Saudi Equestrian Federation since 2008. She was also the first woman to be appointed to the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee.

Malhas has had a thoroughly international upbringing. At 12 she moved with her mother from Saudi Arabia to Rome to train with her under Italy’s former showjumping national coach, Duccio Bartalucci, spending a decade under his tutelage.

After studying and training in Italy she joined a two-year professional program at the Forsan Equestrian Center in Chantilly, France. She has been training with Olympic champion Roger Yves Bost since 2016. 

She started 2019 by participating in several tournaments, crisscrossing Europe and gradually moving up the leaderboard. 

She has won several awards to date, including Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, and can be regarded as a pioneer and role model.

Malhas said there were great opportunities for Saudi women in the fields of sports and equestrianism. She talked about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan and how it empowered women. She also saw an opportunity to become more involved. 

“I want to give back too. I’ve been mostly focused on showjumping and training, so hopefully I’ll start giving back and contribute to society and motivate my peers in the country. I don’t mind though I’ve been enjoying the ride and after years of work I’m finally being rewarded in the best way possible.”