Anthony Joshua praises Saudi passion for boxing ahead of biggest fight of his career

Joshua and Usyk will clash for the second time when they face off at the 'Rage on the Red Sea' in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Joshua and Usyk will clash for the second time when they face off at the 'Rage on the Red Sea' in Jeddah. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 August 2022

Anthony Joshua praises Saudi passion for boxing ahead of biggest fight of his career

Joshua and Usyk will clash for the second time when they face off at the 'Rage on the Red Sea' in Jeddah. (Supplied)
  • British fighter takes on Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk at “Rage on the Red Sea” showdown on Aug. 20

JEDDAH: With under a week to go to the biggest fight of the year, billed the “Rage on the Red Sea,” Anthony Joshua reflected on his first visit to Saudi Arabia in 2019 and how he is ready to “put on a show” for his second fight in the Kingdom: The rematch against Oleksandr Usyk.

At face value, Joshua’s ambitions are simple.

“Last time here I became two-time champion,” he says, just days out from his rematch. “The sole aim now is to become three-time!”

Scratch the surface a little, though, and there is a far greater depth to the goals of both the fighter and host nation.

The last time Joshua fought here he did so under similar circumstances. He went into 2019’s “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah bidding to reclaim the belts he had lost to his opponent just months earlier, and does so again in Jeddah after dropping those same titles to Usyk last year.




Anthony Joshua regained his world heavyweight titles in 2019’s “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah.

Joshua went on to outclass Andy Ruiz Jr. from start to finish in Diriyah, and the Briton, understandably, recalls the night with real fondness.

“I have great memories from 2019,” he said. “Everything about the event was spot on. From the purpose-built stadium, the organization and the hospitality, it was all 10 out of 10. It was a phenomenal event for boxing in general and, of course, very special for me as I became two-time champion.”

A seed was planted on Dec. 7, 2019, and boxing in the Kingdom has grown at a rapid pace ever since. There has been a 300 percent increase in participation across men and women in Saudi Arabia, the number of boxing gyms in the country has climbed from seven to 59, and last December saw the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation introduce the first ever women’s boxing championship.

“Clash of the Dunes” left a legacy for boxing to build upon in Saudi Arabia, something the Joshua is immensely proud of and hopes to further once again when he takes on Usyk at King Abdullah Sports City on Saturday, Aug. 20.

“It’s fantastic that the country has taken the sport to heart,” said Joshua. “I know it has grown by over 300 percent, lots of facilities have opened since 2019 and the women’s championship happened last year. As professional fighters competing on a global scale it is fantastic to see the sport grow and inspire a new generation to it.”

Joshua departed Saudi Arabia a hero in 2019, having brought the pinnacle of the sport to the country for the very first time. The welcome he was given, as well as the support throughout his time there, left a mark on him.

“I have been shown such kindness since I have been here,” he explained. “It is obvious to me that the country has really embraced the sport and that certainly fills me with energy to want to perform in front of the fans.”

The 32-year-old will need all the energy he can muster from the Jeddah crowd as he runs it back against a man widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

Usyk extended his career unbeaten run to 19 fights by securing a unanimous points victory over Joshua, and the 35-year-old Ukrainian is a technical master in the ring. But, while Joshua insists Usyk deserves the respect his achievements command, he is ready to make the most of a rare opportunity at redemption.

He said: “Things happen in life, but resilience and mental toughness and consistency will always prevail, so we are still on the right road. I am focused on the target and goal and it’s all about performance now. I had to take the defeat like a man and hold myself accountable. I simply have to reverse it and move forward.

“We have to give him credit, I respect him for his craft. I am motivated to get better. The great thing is I have a second chance to beat him. You can put me down, but you can’t keep me down.

“My team and I are focused on the goal, taking all the learnings from the last fight and on Aug. 20 I will entertain the fans who come out to see a huge night of heavyweight boxing.”

The battle that tops the billing at “Rage on the Red Sea” is the obvious big-ticket draw for fight fans both watching in the stadium and at home on pay-per-view, but the remainder of the card will make history, too, and is littered with talented, high-stakes bouts from start to finish.

The impact of this event on the ongoing transformation of Saudi Arabia through sport will continue the momentum from the incredible response to “Clash of the Dunes.”

There is Saudi fighter Ziyad Al-Maayouf to inspire local fight fans, while Ramla Ali and Crystal Garcia Nova will be the first female boxers to ever feature in an official international fight in Saudi Arabia. Then there are light-heavyweight and heavyweight final eliminators between Callum Smith and Mathieu Bauderlique, and Filip Hrgovic versus the undefeated Zhilei Zhang, respectively.

Added to that are names such as former two-weight world champion Badou Jack and his opponent Richard Rivera, as well as Daniel Lapin, Jozef Jurko, Andrew Tabiti and Tyrone Spong.

For Joshua, this means only one thing: This event is not to be missed.

“All focus is on fight night, and we are certain to put on a serious show for them,” he said.

“I can’t wait to see everyone at the arena. It is set to be an unbelievable night of championship-level boxing. For any sports fan this is not to be missed, it has all the ingredients to go down in boxing history.”

 


LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah
Updated 21 sec ago

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah

LIV Golf set for first ever Middle East event in Jeddah
  • LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will take place Oct. 14-16

JEDDAH: LIV Golf is set to make its Middle Eastern debut in Saudi Arabia from Oct. 14-16 with 48 of the world’s best golfers competing in the penultimate event of the 2022 season.

The LIV Golf Invitational Jeddah at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host the current Open Champion Cameron Smith and 12 major winners among the strong field, which also includes past Saudi International winners Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner III, and Graeme McDowell.

The first-of-its-kind individual and team format sees the professionals compete in 12 teams of four with a shotgun start accompanied by on-course music and entertainment to create energy and an incredible environment not often associated with golf. 

Featuring a $25 million prize purse, the contest is the final international stop in LIV’s inaugural eight-event season, having previously competed in the US and England. The week prior to Jeddah, the golfers will head to Thailand for the first event in the Asian continent at the newly opened Stonehill.

“LIV Golf can’t wait for our first stop in the Middle East, where interest in both sport and golf is growing,” said LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman. “We couldn’t be more pleased to bring the biggest names in golf to Jeddah and debut our innovative league.”

Majed Al-Sorour, managing director of LIV Golf, added: “LIV Golf is creating opportunities for players from all over the world to compete on a new global stage. After only five events, the results reveal incredible competition and entertainment that are engaging LIV Golf with an international audience. We’re excited to tee off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club which will be an excellent test for the world’s greatest players.”


Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest
Updated 32 min 10 sec ago

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest

Fighter Dina Elias makes Saudi history with gold in international jiu-jitsu contest
  • Saudi contingent also bagged 1 silver medal, 3 bronzes at AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: Martial arts fighter Dina Elias made history at the AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship in Abu Dhabi with a gold-medal-winning performance that made her the first Saudi female to claim top spot at an international jiu-jitsu competition.

Her victory came on day two of the event taking place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in the UAE capital, a contest organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro.

Elias’ gold was achieved in the under-95-kilogram division (blue-belt category) and followed a third-place finish by compatriot Haya Al-Sheikh in the under-70-kg division (blue).

Other Saudi medalists were Abdullah Ndaa with a silver in the under-62-kg, under-16 class, and bronzes for Faros Majid in the under-94-kg (purple) category, and Badi Idris in the under-81-kg, under-18 section.


Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
Updated 02 October 2022

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title

Sergio Perez wins in Singapore rain as Max Verstappen made to wait for F1 title
  • First grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019
  • Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win

SINGAPORE: Sergio Perez won a rain-affected Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday leaving his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to wait at least another week to retain his Formula One world championship.
The Mexican took the chequered flag 7.5sec ahead of the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, but could be stripped of the victory by stewards who were investigating a possible safety car infringement.
Carlos Sainz was third to make it a double podium for Ferrari in the night race that started more than an hour late because of a storm.
It was the first grand prix to be held under lights at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Verstappen had a mathematical chance to clinch a second world title, but needed to win and have other results go his way. He finished seventh after a rollercoaster race.
The Dutchman was always going to struggle after starting eighth on the grid and his task was made trickier by an early evening deluge that delayed the start till 9:05 p.m. (1305 GMT).
When the field eventually tore away from the grid in a shower of spray, Verstappen almost stalled and dropped back from eighth to 13th.
The 25-year-old cut through the field before flat-spotting his tires trying to pass Lando Norris for fourth after a safety car restart.
“I was up with Lando and as soon as I braked, the front wheels jumped in the air and I went straight on,” said Verstappen who was forced to pit for fresh rubber and dropped to last place.
“It’s not what I’m here for. Not with a car like that. It was incredibly messy.”
It means his world championship lead over Leclerc has been cut to 104 points ahead of next week’s Japanese Grand Prix. Perez is two points behind Leclerc.
Verstappen will need to be 112 points ahead at the end of next Sunday’s race in Suzuka to retain his title and can do so if he wins and Leclerc fails to finish second.
Leclerc started on pole but Perez slipped past before the first turn and drove a perfect race to hold off the Monegasque for his second GP win of the season.
“It was certainly my best performance,” Perez said. “I controlled the race. The last three laps were so intense. When I got out of the car, I felt it. I gave everything today.”
Leclerc started on pole but had a sluggish getaway on intermediate tires in the slippery conditions allowing Perez to reach the first corner in the lead.
“I pushed all the way,” said Leclerc. “The bad start put us on the back foot and it was a really difficult race after that.”
Sainz started fourth and managed to force his way past Lewis Hamilton on turn one, but he felt he could never threaten the front two and crossed the line 7.7sec behind Leclerc.
“It was very tough out there,” Sainz said. “I never really got into a rhythm in the wet and then couldn’t challenge the top two guys.
“I had to settle for P3, but the good thing is I didn’t do any mistakes and could bring the car home and be quick toward the end of the race.”
The McLaren pair of Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and fifth, Lance Stroll sixth in the Aston Martin ahead of Verstappen.
Sebastian Vettel, the winner in Singapore the last time the race was run in 2019, was eighth, with Hamilton and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10.
Hamilton had been in the battle for pole but had a torrid time, complaining early about his tires and later slithering into a barrier necessitating a new nose before coming home ninth.
“I think we started off with a really decent weekend, it was really unfortunate at the end,” said Hamilton.
“I was trying, obviously difficult to overtake, that lock up into turn seven, ugh, when those things happen your heart sinks a little bit.”


Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3
Updated 02 October 2022

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3

Haaland, Foden hat-tricks help Man City thrash Man Utd 6-3
  • Haaland has scored hat-tricks in each of his last three Premier League home games to take his tally to 17
  • City could have scored many more than the four they managed in a blistering first half performance

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scored hat-tricks as Manchester City thrashed Manchester United 6-3 to move to within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
Haaland has scored hat-tricks in each of his last three Premier League home games to take his tally as a City player to 17 in 10 competitive games for the English champions.
Antony’s strike and Anthony Martial’s late double ensured United avoided a record defeat in the Manchester derby as they remain in sixth, nine points off the top.
Since also conceding four times inside the first 45 minutes at Brentford in August, United had bounced back with four consecutive Premier League wins to offer hope they are heading in the right direction under Erik ten Hag.
But the Red Devils were given a rude awakening of the gulf that still exists between the Manchester giants.
City could have scored many more than the four they managed in a blistering first half performance that swept away any doubts caused by an inconsistent start to the season from Pep Guardiola’s men.
Within four minutes it took two goal-line clearances and a fine save from David de Gea to deny Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva the opening goal.
Four minutes later, City did open the floodgates when Foden swept home Silva’s cross for the Manchester native’s first derby goal.
Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick hit the post and Foden blasted another big chance wide before Haaland inevitably made his mark.
United were left to bemoan the absence of Raphael Varane to defend a De Bruyne corner as he received treatment on an ankle injury that forced him off at half-time.
Without the Frenchman, there was no match for Haaland’s presence in the penalty box as his header crossed the line before Tyrell Malacia’s attempted clearance.
Moments later, City showcased their ability to counter-attack as Jack Grealish fed De Bruyne, who perfectly picked out Haaland to convert on the stretch at the back post.
Haaland then turned provider with a low cross that Foden converted to leave United trailing 4-0 at half-time for the third time in a year.
Unlike, in a 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Liverpool last season and at Brentford last month, there was some semblance of a United response after the break.
Antony smashed home his second goal in as many Premier League appearances since a £82 million ($92 million) move from Ajax.
But Haaland quickly retook center stage with a thumping finish to meet Sergio Gomez’s cross.
City were on course to match the record margin of victory in a Manchester derby when Haaland set up Foden to smash home and complete his hat-trick.
That was Foden’s final involvement as he was withdrawn in a quadruple change as Guardiola could afford to also hand a rest to De Bruyne, Gundogan and Grealish.
United took advantage of City taking their foot off the accelerator in the final 10 minutes as substitute Martial scored twice to cut the arrears.
The Frenchman bravely headed in the rebound after Ederson parried Fred’s shot and then emphatically fired home from the penalty spot.


UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi

UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi
Updated 02 October 2022

UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi

UAE top medals table on day 1 of AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi
  • Competitions for teens, youth, masters’ categories held Saturday at Jiu-Jitsu Arena, Zayed Sports City

ABU DHABI: The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro championship kicked off on Saturday at Abu Dhabi’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Zayed Sports City with the UAE taking home the most medals.

The tournament is being organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro.

Saturday’s competitions, which saw grapplers take part in the teens, youth, and masters’ divisions, ended with Commando Group taking first place, Palms Sports — Team 777 coming second, and Al-Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club securing third place. In terms of country rankings, Colombia and Brazil took second and third places, respectively, behind the UAE.

Abdel Moneim Al-Hashemi, chairman of the UAEJJF, president of the Asian Jiu-Jitsu Union, and senior vice president of the International Jiu-Jitsu Federation, praised the winners at a ceremony held following the action.

Youssef Al-Batran, board member of the UAEJJF, said: “The championship’s remarkable success reflects the joint efforts of the UAEJJF and AJP which have attracted hundreds of jiu-jitsu professionals from more than 50 nations to the UAE capital and produced an excellent competition atmosphere.

“Events like these strengthen Abu Dhabi’s status as the world’s jiu-jitsu capital,” he added.

The athletes from Brazilian academies in particular put on outstanding performances on Saturday. Among them was Jorge Pereira, a black-belt holder from the Brazilian JSBJJ Academy, who competed in the 77-kilogram masters’ category and scooped gold.

He said: “We hold the AJP championships in great regard since they help us advance our careers and raise our rankings. I have been constantly participating in AJP tournaments all over the world.

“I came to Abu Dhabi from Brazil not only to compete for medals but also to prepare for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.”

In turn, Ayaz Suleymanov, a black belt from Renzo Gracie Azerbaijan, who won gold in the masters’ 94-kg category, said: “I signed up for this event as part of our rigorous training for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Today’s competitions were a remarkable experience. The Asia Continental Pro in Abu Dhabi gave us a memorable learning experience that will help us advance our skills.”

The UAE girls stood out in the tournament’s elite field of competitors from the region and around the globe. Mariam Al-Ali, a blue belt from Palms Sports — Team 777, managed to win the youth women’s 48-kg category.

She said: “Today’s competitions offered us a great chance to develop and perfect our skills as we go up against some of the best international players from different international clubs and academies. It significantly contributed to the development of our technical and physical skills.”

AJP general manager, Tareq Al-Bahri, said: “The AJP Tour Asia Continental Pro is crucial to several players’ professional careers because of the volume of points it provides and the impact it has on their annual rankings. Additionally, the competition offers a chance to be ready for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship.”