Promoter Eddie Hearn is ready for the backlash but happy with his decision as Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title fight with Oleksandr Usyk will take place in Saudi Arabia.
An official announcement of the rematch is expected next week, with August 20 being the most likely date for the fight.
Joshua lost on points to Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September and his bid to regain the WBA, IBF and WBO titles is set to take place in Saudi Arabia, which could spark further controversy following the scrutiny of golf in recent days.
A string of big winners play in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, a £20million event – the most lucrative golf tournament in history – backed by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund and the tournament has involved those involved because of its poor human rights record of the country criticized .
Hearn, who took Joshua there for his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019, said: “I’m very comfortable, especially in boxing, with choices that we make for a lot of different reasons.
“Firstly, we’ve done this before and it was a huge success. I have actually seen the work that has gone into a major sporting event for the region. It’s not a golf game.
“I’m not saying the golfers shouldn’t be in this tournament, but what I’m saying is that this is a price war where we have to go by contract to whichever venue ultimately generates the most revenue for the fight, whether AJ like it or not, but it’s not even close.
“It’s not like doing it in London makes a small difference (financially). It’s a whole stratosphere.
“What these golfers need to do is sit down and say, ‘I was excited about this project – which they really could have been – I wanted to have my own destiny in terms of my schedule and I’m making a lot of money’ because they miss that bit out.
“Boxing is different because boxing is a sport that we all expect these guys to go in, fight in a potentially harmful environment in front of all these people around the world, and I have to make sure they make as much money as possible . This is my obligation and I do it.
“I experienced it, I enjoyed it and I will do it again. Golf talk is different because it’s a game of golf, but you just have to be honest. You can still be curious. I’m looking forward to doing another show in Saudi, the first one was amazing.
“They built a stadium from scratch in 10 or 11 weeks. We are ready for the questions and I will answer them as honestly as ever.”
Hearn says Joshua will not worry about a review of his decision to return to Saudi Arabia, where human rights group Amnesty International reported in March that 81 people had been executed in a single day.
Ahead of his fight with Ruiz Jr in 2019, the British heavyweight said Saudi Arabia was trying to “do a good job politically”.
Hearn, speaking for Derek Chisora’s fight with Kubrat Pulev ahead of a press conference in London, said: “I understand the different opinions that are coming back, but we’re looking at it from a slightly different angle and the Middle East, not just Saudi, is going to be one huge region for boxing.
“No, AJ isn’t worried because he’s been through all this before, he’s been through the whole process before and he’ll eventually say, ‘Eddie over to you, I’m going to train.’
“And again I’m not passing the buck and saying his hands were tied but it’s a whole different deal when you have a 50-50 split with another fighter where the basis of the contract is is to maximize the earnings of the fight. ”