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Eddie Hearn defends staging Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia

Promoter Eddie Hearn has defended the decision to stage Anthony Joshua’s highly anticipated rematch against Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia amid the massive scrutiny surrounding this week’s inaugural LIV Golf event, stressing that boxing cannot be compared to other sports.

There was much criticism when Premier League outfit Newcastle finally confirmed their mega-money takeover by Saudi Arabia last year, and this week the topic of sportswashing has made headlines again, with some elite golfers lured by the new event.

Hearn has already staged an event in Saudi Arabia, namely Joshua’s rematch win over Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019. And the former champion will now return to the Middle East, announcing the fight next week.

Eddie Hearn (right) has defended decision to stage Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua II in Saudi Arabia

Eddie Hearn (right) has defended decision to stage Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua II in Saudi Arabia

The pair will compete again on August 20, with Joshua fighting in the Middle East for the second time

The pair will compete again on August 20, with Joshua fighting in the Middle East for the second time

Usyk blinded his way to a wide-ranging decision win to claim Joshua’s IBF, WBA and WBO belts last year, and the pair will compete again on August 20, in a covered venue to offset the scorching heat, with Hearn now insists the battle is signed and sealed.

As prior to Joshua’s meeting with Ruiz Jr, there will be questions about location leading up to the fight. But for Hearn, he stands firmly behind the decisions made.

“The problem right now is that nobody wants to be honest,” he said. “I feel very comfortable, especially in boxing, to make such decisions, for many different reasons.

“One is that I’ve done it before. It was a huge success. I’ve seen the work that has gone into making a major sporting event for the region. It’s not a golf game.

“I’m not saying the golfers shouldn’t be playing in this tournament, I’m saying it’s a prize fight where we contractually have to go to the venue that ultimately generates the most revenue for this fight – whether AJ likes it or not.

“It doesn’t even come close. It’s not like there’s a slight difference from doing in London. It’s a very different stratosphere.’

While Hearn doesn’t necessarily believe the Saudi Arabia-backed golf event should be disapproved, he does insist that those who participate should be transparent about why they’re doing so.

A number of elite golfers, including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, have signed up for the inaugural event of the LIV Golf Series, which has drawn massive criticism.

A number of elite golfers, including Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, have signed up for the inaugural event of the LIV Golf Series, which has drawn massive criticism.

Joshua and Hearn have gone to boxing in Saudi Arabia in the past, when the former avenged his defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr

Joshua and Hearn have gone to boxing in Saudi Arabia in the past, when the former avenged his defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr

Some, like Lee Westwood, have maintained that they would be “stupid” to turn down the money. However, others have maintained that the financial rewards did not encourage them to compete.

Hearn continued: “With these golfers they have to sit down and say, ‘I was excited by this project’ – which they really could be – ‘I wanted to have my own destiny in terms of my schedule, and I want to make a lot of money. ” They miss that part.

Boxing is different; boxing is a sport where we all expect these guys to participate, fight for all these people around the world in a potentially harmful environment – and i have a duty to make them as much money as possible.

“I do, and I’ve done it over and over. I experienced it (the Middle East), I enjoyed it and we will do it again.

“The golf talk, it’s different because it’s a game of golf, but they just have to be honest. You can still be excited – I’m excited to do another show in Saudi Arabia, the first one was incredible. They built a stadium from scratch in 10 or 11 weeks.

“So we’re ready for the questions and I’ll answer them as honestly as before. But instead of sitting there and saying I’m not willing to comment on that… it’s none of my business.’

Hearn, who insists that “everyone has tried” to go to the Middle East, not just Matchroom, also says Joshua is not concerned about a possible reaction to the official announcement.

Not only has Joshua fought there before, but he and Usyk will get an even split of the pot this time, meaning the decision on the venue will have to come from both sides.

Joshua and Usyk share a 50-50 split of the fight scholarship for the upcoming match

Joshua and Usyk share a 50-50 split of the fight scholarship for the upcoming match

Usyk's team now has significantly more pulling power in terms of where the fight is held

Usyk’s team now has significantly more pulling power in terms of where the fight is held

“He’s been through it before, he’s been through the whole process before,” Hearn said. “He’ll eventually say, ‘Eddie to you, I’m going to train.’

“I’m not going to say his hands are tied, but it’s a very different deal if you have a 50-50 split with another fighter, where the basis of the contract is to maximize the profit of the fight.

“How can you go back to Usyk and say we’d love to do it at Spurs. They will ask what the other options are – it’s a non-starter.

“He’ll just say, ‘Look, this was a good chance for me, I’ve been there before, I had a great experience, I won. Yes, I’m going to make a lot of money, and I’m going in there too, risking my health for your entertainment.”’

Meanwhile, Hearn insists Joshua only recently accepted his defeat to Usyk in September last year.

The former united champion tried to box the better boxer, which turned out to be a foolish move afterwards. However, he has since added trainer Robert Garcia to his camp, while leaving long-term coach Robert McCracken.

Hearn explained: “He was quite rebellious for a long time, saying ‘No, I could have beaten him like that’, instead of saying ‘What was I doing?’

‘That’s what he says now. When he sits down with Robert and he has looked, they see a way to beat him.

Hearn insists Joshua has only recently accepted the way of his defeat to the Ukrainian

Hearn insists Joshua has only recently accepted the way of his defeat to the Ukrainian

However, he is teaming up with Robert Garcia, which Hearn says will benefit him immensely

However, he is teaming up with Robert Garcia, which Hearn says will benefit him immensely

“We’ve always seen a way to beat Usyk, but when you get in there, it’s different. But I have a lot more confidence because he shared 12 laps with him, instead of just going in because there is a wizardry about Usyk.”

He continued: “He wasn’t himself in that first fight. He just needs to go in and be himself. It’s not hard not to try to be something he isn’t. Just be yourself and you’ll beat him.’

Hearn now believes Joshua will win well within the range, stressing that the influence Garcia will have is invaluable.

“I can see him winning this fight in six rounds,” he said. “That’s how he must feel in this fight. You have to cut him and you have to hit him f****** wherever you want.

‘He doesn’t like the body; he has fallen many times in WSB and claimed back, low blow. Hit him everywhere.’

He continued: ‘It’s very important to have that experience, not only in the camp, but also in the corner at night. Robert is the kind of guy who can’t stand anything.

“If he wants AJ to do something, he’ll yell at him. Sometimes with these big stars there are too many people who say, “What do you want to do, AJ?” Garcia will fucking tell him or get on the plane, and that’s what he needed.’

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