The opening press conference, to announce the fight, site, and date, usually — OK, like, always — has the combatants present.
But boxing is boxing, and day in and out, we do things differently. Not always better, and not always necessarily worse, but differently.
On Monday, promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom in London told the world that Dec. 7 will be the date for the rematch between champ Andy Ruiz Jr and challenger Anthony Joshua, who dropped straps when he and the Mexican-American clashed in NYC June 1.
No quotes from AJ or Ruiz, both of whom were ... washing their hair? Stuck in traffic?
“The epic world heavyweight blockbuster event” is how Hearn put it, sitting next to Omar Khalil of Skill Challenge Entertainment, which is tasked with putting together the foundation for the Dec. 7 card to be screened by DAZN, live from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has of late tried to present another side to itself, and officials there have sought and secured the services of sports entities. The World Boxing Super Series had a card there, and Amir Khan brought his talents to the Middle Eastern nation last month.
Hearn said he feels an obligation to bring boxing to new areas, and the “potential to grow the sport of boxing,” adding a new source of eyeballs and interest, floats his boat. (It goes without saying but must be said that the boatload of cash that the Sauds are handing over to Hearn and AJ is the biggest of all boat-floaters for the Brit.)
The venue, now being built, could seat between 12 and 16,000, up from a rumored 6-7,000. Boxing, WWE, and motor sports entities are attracted to Saudi Arabia as a destination, he stated.
Khalil spoke of the leaders in the nation being mindful of looking to try to bring more pro sports events here, and having that benefit citizens. He trotted out a video — no, not of Ruiz or AJ, but of some footage of splashy events that occured there. Fans waving hands, holding cell phones aloft, looking as enthused as anything.
Hearn played emcee, and he threw a fastball down the middle to Khalil. If you buy a Dec. 7 ticket, you get a 30-day visa so you can sight-see, Khalil explained. “Weather-wise, it’s the best time to visit Saudi,” he added.
40 million citizens there, Khalil stated, with 70 percent 24 and under.
”The appetite for such events is huge,” he said. He said this is being done to present the quality of life for the people living there.
More Hearn news notes:
—Ticket info will come soon, and again, Hearn spoke of the ease of getting into the nation. Pressers with AJ and Ruiz will happen, Hearn said. “The first week of September” will see pressers in Saudi Arabia, London and NYC, he shared.
—The fighters have signed, repeat, have signed on to do this, he said, speaking to chatter that Ruiz is dragging his feet.
I emailed Hearn after the pocket-sized presser.
“You made a good case for Saudi Arabia being a smart choice to widen out eyeball growth potential for the sport,” I said. ”Question: Will women be allowed in the stadium to watch the event? Will female Matchroom staff be allowed to go there and work?”
Hearn replied: “Absolutely — all women welcome!”
Anyway, expect chatter to continue — this is the nature of the sport and the world we are in. Unanimity is rarely achieved in any matter of public opinion, and the chances slimmer than none when such a controversial site is chosen for the most high-profile bout of the year in boxing.
You really have to choose as a patron or media member how you see and/or cover such a development. You can shrug it off when you see that Arabia Skill Challenge doesn’t seem to be even half an open book — click on their website off their LinkedIn presence and you get an error message. You can choose to ponder, or not, the track record of Saudi Arabia’s leadership. In March, the UN’s Human Rights Council issued a tsk-tsk at the kingdom for clamping down hard on activists. The nation is now allowing women to obtain driving licenses, so there is some give and take.
Many Americans have become woke to that nation and the current relationship between the Sauds and our administration. A lack of forceful pushback from the Trump admin after a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, who lived in America, was murdered at the SA consulate in Istanbul last October.
Khashoggi had been a leading voice for progressivism in Saudia Arabia; a month after he disappeared, the CIA concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.
Now, back to the other side of the fence; Amnesty International is warning travelers about the perils of gun violence in the United States. AI “calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country,” the warning continues. Regular massacres committed by angry caucasians holding weapons of war which are not hard to purchase have been deemed a “a human rights crisis,” and tens of millions of citizens take aim at this U.S. government for failing in their obligation to keep citizens safe. And people outside America might not know that there is a most bitter scenario taking place on a daily basis, with the Trump family separation policy and now an uptick in immigration raids targeted at not simply bad actors who are in the US “illegally” but Regular Joes and Janes who came here and don’t possess “viable” papers to reside here.
It’s a foolish stance to own which has you believing that “we” are all good and “they” are the baddies, and to act and judge accordingly, in my mind.
It boils down to this: most people are inclined to keep sports and “politics” separate. But, my personal take is that the two are linked. Because under the heading of “politics” we know that human rights, civil rights and the treatment of the planet as a whole sit. If you turn your eyes blind, you are being simply a passenger on a ride which is being steered by persons who may well have their own best interest at heart, and not the best interests of the masses, or the less well off.