‘Despite their abysmal human rights record, it’s an opportunity for the Saudis to ‘sportswash’ their image’: Amnesty International condemns Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr taking place in Saudi Arabia
- Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr settled for a rematch on neutral ground
- But that has taken their highly anticipated bout to Diriyah in Saudi Arabia
- Amnesty International hit out at the location of the fight in the middle-east state
- Organisation slammed country’s human rights record and ongoing conflicts
- Golf’s European Tour has been criticised for holding an event in the country
The organisation has criticised the nation for trying to ‘sportswash’ their image citing human rights violations, the ongoing war on Yemen and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The fight will take place on the on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh in Diriyah after it was approved by the International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organisation on Friday.
Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr will meet again in Saudi Arabia after their June bout saw the British boxer suffer a shock first professional defeat
As a result, Ruiz Jr claimed the WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight titles
Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, Felix Jakens, said: ‘Joshua should inform himself of the human rights situation and be prepared to speak out about Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record.
‘If Anthony Joshua fights Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia, it’s likely to be yet another opportunity for the Saudi authorities to try to ‘sportswash’ their severely tarnished image.
‘Despite some long-overdue reforms on women’s rights, Saudi Arabia is currently in the grip of a sweeping human rights crackdown, with women’s rights activists, lawyers and members of the Shia minority community all being targeted.
Sportswashing is the act of hosting major sporting events to help shield attention away from the state in question’s political practices.
Saudi Arabia has branched into other major sporting events in recent years, hosting the Italian Super Cup in 2018, and it will do so again in December.
It has also played host to an October friendly between Brazil and Argentina
‘There’s been no justice over the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen is carrying out indiscriminate attacks on homes, hospitals and market-places with horrific consequences for Yemeni civilians.’
The match is not the first time Saudi Arabia have looked to host major boxing events in their country, as Amnesty International also criticised a match with Amir Khan and the Australian Billy Dib back in July.
Another bout in the middle east state saw the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final between British pair Callum Smith and George Groves.
There has also been fierce criticism of golf’s European Tour after they hosted the Saudi International in January of this year.
Although a number of big names appeared at the event, Tiger Woods is reported to have turned down a $2million appearance fee and a yacht to play, while Paul Casey and Matt Fitzpatrick also skipped it.
Dustin Johnson won the European Tour’s controversial Saudi International back in February
Joshua, meanwhile, surprisingly lost his heavyweight titles against Ruiz in their June bout at Madison Square Garden, his first professional defeat, and welcomed the rematch announcement on Twitter by saying ‘Neutral grounds – LETS GO.’
Although Joshua was content for the fight to take place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Ruiz insisted it would only take place in the United States or on neutral grounds.
The Joshua-Ruiz Jr rematch will not be the first heavyweight showdown with political repercussions, with Muhammad Ali having famously defeated George Foreman in Zaire back in 1974.
Zaire’s dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, was convinced that the event, which became known as The Rumble in the Jungle, would provide positive publicity for his controversial regime.
Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was also heavily involved as a financial sponsor and provided the purse money for both fighters.
Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire in October, 1974