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Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 2: Prince Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia defends hosting fight after ‘sportswashing’ claims

Saudi prince said ‘mistakes’ had been made in the past but believes the country are making progress on human rights

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 06 December 2019 17:00
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Joshua vs Ruiz 2 Press Conference

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Saud of Saudi Arabia has defended the decision to host the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr in the Middle Eastern country.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of “sportswashing” to cover up an international reputation tainted by a number of human rights atrocities and controversies, including the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi and the treatment of women and people of the LGBT+ community.

Prince Abdulaziz defended the decision to hold the rematch in Saudi Arabia, telling Sky News that despite past “mistakes” the country is committed to change.

“We do have mistakes like any other country but there are changes,” he said.

“Social changes that are happening that we’re driving towards and hopefully things will get better as we move on, and we are learning as well.

“The excitement and awareness we’re going to spread from this fight and to give the chance for Saudis to watch this fight is our aim.”

The prince, who is the chairman of the country’s General Sports Authority, is keen to host a number of high profile sporting events in the country, with a drive to increase participation in sport a goal in a country with a high rate of obesity.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman wants to raise the profile of the country. WWE has hosted several wrestling events in Saudi Arabia previously, while the Riyadh Street Circuit has hosted three ePrixs and the 2018 Race of Champions.

And Prince Abdulaziz has set out some lofty goals for the country, with tennis, golf, equestrian and the Spanish Super Cup football all set to visit Saudi Arabia in the next month.

“We want to host as many events as we can, to feed our strategy and promote diverse sports in the kingdom,” he said.

“You don’t see much of a boxing culture in the kingdom as in the UK.

“We’re showcasing that hopefully if we do bid for them one day, we can host an Olympics or a football World Cup.”

Joshua and Ruiz will meet in a rematch for the four heavyweight titles that the Mexican-American took from the former champion in a stunning victory in June.

In a fight dubbed the “Clash On The Dunes”, the two heavyweights will battle at the purpose-built Diriyah Arena, which can hold 15,000 people.

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