Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury criticised for hosting mega-fight in Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have been criticised for agreeing on Saudi Arabia as the host nation for their heavyweight mega-fight later this year.

The two British superstars are believed to be on the verge of finalising a deal which will see them face off in the Middle East in August.

Joshua has fought in Saudi before, in his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019, and promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed the same backers for that fight had made a standout bid to stage a meeting with Fury.

It promises to be the sporting event of the year and one of the biggest in boxing history, but will be done so against the backdrop of Saudi Arabia's controversial approach to human rights.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “It comes as no surprise that Saudi Arabia is once again set to use a major sporting event as a means to sportswash its atrocious human rights record.

“By staging this high-profile fight, Saudi Arabia is yet again trying to shift the media spotlight away from its jailing of peaceful activists like Loujain al-Hathloul, its grisly state-sanctioned murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its indiscriminate bombing of civilians in neighbouring Yemen.

“Simply put – Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman wants people around the world to be talking about sport in Saudi Arabia, not the dissidents being locking up after sham trials or the people being tortured in Saudi jails.

“When he fought in Saudi Arabia in 2019 it was disappointing that Anthony Joshua ducked the issue of human rights, and this time we hope he and his opponent can speak out in the build-up to the fight.

“A few well-chosen words about human rights from Joshua and Fury would mean a lot to Saudi Arabia’s beleaguered human rights defenders, helping to counteract the intended sportswashing effect of this boxing match.”

Saudi's deputy prime minister Bin Salman was behind the consortium who tried to takeover Newcastle United last summer, but pulled out after their bid was held up by the Premier League's investigations into their suitability as club owners.

He is still dismissing claims he had any part to do in the death of the aforementioned Khashoggi – a journalist assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by agents who were allegedly under the order of Bin Salman.

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Hearn was involved with Bin Salman's brother, Prince Khalid, during the talks for the Ruiz Jr fight, at which time he insisted those behind the bid had "good intentions" for sport in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking about the Joshua-Fury clash, Hearn told Sky Sports on Tuesday: "I think it's a very bad secret that the fight is happening in Saudi Arabia. To be honest with you, I don't mind giving you that information. Bob Arum [Fury's US promoter] has already done it.

"It's the same people that we did the deal with Andy Ruiz [rematch]. That event was spectacular.

"As partners, they were fantastic as well. We're very comfortable. Anthony is very comfortable, he knows those people. They've delivered on every one of their promises last time. We're ready to go."

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