Amer Abdallah, director of boxing of Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz’s Skill Challenge Entertainment, talks to Arab News about the landmark signing of Oleksandr Usyk — and other additions — to the organization, potential world title fights in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom’s successful ventures into a diverse range of sports globally.
Oleksandr Usyk has signed to Skill Challenge Entertainment’s growing stable of local and international fighters. What made this a good fit for you?
Oleksandr Usyk doesn’t need any introduction. He is the heavyweight champion of the world and the former undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world. He’s one of the elite fighters in boxing today and arguably the elite heavyweight in boxing today.
We’ve signed three fighters based on the different levels of their careers.
We started with our first signee, Ziyad Al-Maayouf; he’s Saudi Arabian.
Prince Khalid wanted to ensure that a Saudi Arabian was signed to the banner first. Ziyad is currently 3-0 and he’s new in his career.
Then we went to Badou Jack, a three-division world champion — among the best fighters in the world. A future hall-of-famer who doesn’t shy away from anybody. A great individual — humanitarian, philanthropist etc.
The third signing, which is an elite-level guy, you can put on your current pound-for-pound list, is Oleksandr Usyk.
For us strategically, it was filling each of those buckets; the prospects, the established guys and the elite.
And then Usyk, you know, he’s very versatile and very dynamic, he can fight at heavyweight, he can fight at cruiserweight, and maybe things are more appealing for him, you know, to do other weight classes.
The most important thing for Usyk right now is that he’s got to defend the WBA title in Poland against Daniel DuBois. And then, God willing, he is victorious and we can bring Tyson Fury to the Kingdom. I think Tyson would love the fight and I think he wants to do the undisputed fight.
Speaking of Tyson Fury — the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship is the biggest fight in boxing right now. What will Skill Challenge Entertainment do to get this fight done?
I think that the relationship that we have with Queensbury Promotions, that Prince Khalid has had four years with Frank Warren and his son, George (is great).
Tyson Fury came to the Kingdom for the Jake Paul fight.
His brother Tommy fought and there was a great mutual respect between the two.
Of course, John Fury, his father, is a lovely person. Absolutely, lovely person. I know a lot of people don’t say that, but he genuinely is. He knows how to sell a fight and promotion.
I would say that he is a man of integrity. Sitting down with him, he’s a man of respect and I had genuine admiration because he was a wild card. I didn’t know what he’d be like, but when he sat there with Prince Khalid I genuinely felt that this is a good man. He wants his sons to be paid and compensated well and to be safe. He has no problem getting animated and I love it. I think it’s great for the sport. I know he’s genuinely a good man and I felt very comfortable with him.
Tyson is a breed of that and I think that he does want the fight. He said that he wants to fight and I think it’s just a matter of having the right people going like sitting at the table, making the offer saying, “This is what the offer is — let’s eliminate all the barriers. But I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of barriers, everybody wants to this fight to happen. I just don’t see anybody that would not want this fight to happen.
As long as the communication is clear; that deal will be right, the figures will be right, the date will be right. It’s just a matter of aligning everybody and making sure everybody is satisfied, and I think that’ll happen.
Eddie Hearn has claimed that an offer without a contract has been made for Anthony Joshua to fight Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia. What do you know about it?
There’s interest in Joshua fighting Wilder — but there has not been a formal offer that I know of that has been made.
But there is interest. Eddie was in the Kingdom a few weeks back. Him and Prince Khalid have a long-time relationship and a long-time mutual respect for one another, and they’ve done business several times together. So it’s not far-fetched that a formal offer will be on the table. Until an offer does come from Skill Challenge stating that an offer was made, then nothing’s official.
There’s interest there. Absolutely. Eddie knows that, AJ knows that. Of course, all of Wilder’s team know that. So until that happens, I can’t publicly come forward and say, an offer has been made.
Is there possibility of having both fights held in Saudi Arabia at the same time?
It’ll be unprecedented in terms of how we do this thing. With Prince Khalid, when he told me about it, I told him, I said, your highness, that’s nuts. That’s absolutely ludicrous what you’re thinking and he goes — “No, I want it done on the same night.”
Those talks were happening behind closed doors and, you know, eventually they leave. And I was questioned about it because, you know, several sources were talking about it. So, I addressed it.
But look, nothing is confirmed. Remember, boxing is a six-month sport. December, is a long way away. A lot can happen, a lot. Fury’s got a fight (in September — confirmed by Frank Warren), Wilder may want to fight and Usyk definitely has a fight (in August versus Daniel Dubois in Poland.)
These guys have got to get to December healthy; with their current market value, with their current records, with their current titles — for those that have the titles — in order for the significance of the fights to be the spectacle that we imagine it would be.
You can look at look how the reaction is so far. Everybody is over the moon over how amazing this fight would be. There’s interest, yes, but along the way these guys have mandatories. They have to stay active. They can’t gain any rust along the way.
How has Saudi Arabia managed to successfully venture into many diverse sports globally?
I appreciate a question like that. Typically, somebody will have condescending or negative remarks. When you have such a movement, the simple answer is the vision, it’s the Vision 2030 of his highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has this revolutionary idea of what he’d like the Kingdom to be, with infrastructure from a business, commercial, industry to sporting entertainment.
He has no problem going forward and making those things happen for us. Luckily boxing is one of those sports that his highness is interested in. They’re allocating the revenue, the resources to be able to make that happen.
The focal point starts coming on in the Kingdom and it’s all in part of the Vision 2030.
And with Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz, he’s taking the helm with Skill Challenge, backed by the Ministry of Sport behind him; it’s unstoppable. I mean it’s just a force to be reckoned with.
It was Muhammed Ali who said — “if your dreams don’t scare you. They’re not big enough.”
These are massive dreams. I’m a boxing fan, so sometimes I have to check myself. Sometimes, I’m like — “Oh my God, this is going to be sick, this is going to be awesome; we’ve got all these huge fights.”
I’m blessed to be in this position and my genuine gratitude is to the Kingdom, to of course, his highness Prince Mohammed, for this amazing vision that he has for the country and Prince Khalid bin Abdelaziz and the Ministry of Sport for giving me the opportunity.