Anthony Joshua recognises Saudi Arabia’s passion for boxing

Anthony Joshua has been speaking out ahead of the biggest fight of his career on Saturday against Oleksandr Usyk.

With under a week to go to the biggest fight of the year, billed the Rage on the Red Sea, Anthony Joshua reflects on his first visit to Saudi Arabia in 2019 and how he’s ready to “put on a show” for his second fight in the Kingdom and second fight against his formidable opponent, Oleksandr Usyk.

At face value, Anthony Joshua’s ambitions at the Rage on the Red Sea are simple.

“Last time here I became two-time champion,” he says, just days out from his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk. “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 event’s main event fighter and its host nation, Saudi Arabia.

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 retain the belts he lost to his opponent just months earlier and does so again in Jeddah after dropping the same titles to Usyk last year.

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

“I have great memories from 2019,” he recalled. “Everything about the event was spot on. From the purpose-built stadium, the organisation 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 7th December 2019, and boxing in the Kingdom has grown at a rapid rate 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 6’6” fighter is immensely proud of and hopes to further once again when he takes on Usyk at King Abdullah Sports City on Saturday, 20 August.

“It’s fantastic that the country has taken the sport to heart,” said Joshua. “I know it has grown by over 300%, 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. And the welcome he was given, as well as the support throughout his time there, left an indelible mark on the Briton.

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