Eddie Hearn responds to Saudi Arabia backlash ahead of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou | Boxing | Sport

Eddie Hearn responds to Saudi Arabia backlash ahead of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou | Boxing | Sport

Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has spoken out about why he’s been putting on big fights in Saudi Arabia after facing backlash for taking big events away from Britain and America. Saudi has seen an influx of big-name fights in recent years due to the immense money pumped into sport, which some have claimed is the country trying to hide human rights issues. 

Fans of boxing are particularly upset because they think all the best fights and events are moving away from the US and UK, including the likes of Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr 2, Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou, Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk and Joshua vs Ngannou. But Hearn is adamant he and Matchroom are doing the right thing. 

“The first thing is, I hate, ‘You’re taking boxing away from the UK and America’,” he said to DAZN. “There’s this thing it’s called the world and Saudi Arabia sits in it. 

“Our plan, along with DAZN, is global expansion. So if there is money coming into the sport from a new region we need to embrace that. If that money is enabling us to see the fights that keep boxing great, even better. But we must still focus on other markets and particularly our domestic markets.

“Fights like [Artur] Beterbiev-[Dmitrii] Bivol that can get made instantly I don’t think that fights would have got made without Saudi Arabia. Tyson] Fury-[Oleksandr] Usyk wouldn’t have been made without Saudi Arabia, so we have to embrace it, because you can’t deny the fighters the opportunity and seeing the growth there first hand, it’s quite amazing, as a country.”

Another big fight set to take place in Saudi Arabia is Joshua taking on Ngannou on March 8, in the city of Riyadh. Joshua won his last three fights and he now faces a bigger challenge in Ngannou, who lost his debut fight against Fury, a decision many did not agree with.

His poise and power gave Fury plenty of problems and he even knocked ‘The Gypsy King’ to the canvas. Aware of the threat Ngannou will pose to AJ, Hearn told the MMA Hour that he is feeling nervous about the fight.

“This fight is going to tell us a lot, because every time I talk to you I get very scared and I get a little tingling in my stomach, because I know you think he could win this fight,” Hearn said.

“When I went to the gym the other day to see AJ, he’s taking this like this is a Tyson Fury times 10. He’s taking this fight so seriously. Frank Warren talks about the jeopardy in this fight.

“That’s a great word for this fight, because if you get beat, you’ve gotten beat by a 0-1 guy. But when Turki Alashikh, his excellency, says the winner of this fight will go on and fight for undisputed against the winner of Fury-Usyk – that, for us, is a dream chance.

“We chased that for so long, and I can’t tell you how much I believe AJ is going to beat Francis Ngannou and then he’s going to beat the winner of Fury-Usyk and become the undisputed heavyweight world champion.”

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