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Sports

Rage on the Red Sea organizers discuss impact on Saudi scene, address controversy

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Organizers of the Rage on the Red Sea boxing event in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah discussed the impact the major matchup will have on the local scene, and addressed claims of Saudi sportswashing in interviews with Al Arabiya English on Wednesday.

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Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz, spokesperson for global rights holder Skill Challenge Entertainment, and Eddie Hearn, Chairman of Matchroom Sport, discussed the wider implications of the historic event on the sidelines of a press conference in Jeddah.

Rage on the Red Sea, which is due to feature the first female boxing match on Saudi soil and a Saudi boxer’s first ever professional bout, will have a “very big impact” on the local boxing scene, Prince Fahd said.

“Boxing in the last couple of years has had a big impact on Saudis here, both men and women… It has a very big impact here in Saudi and for the people in Saudi here, especially in Jeddah,” he said.

He also said the Kingdom hopes to have more Saudi fighters in the future who will “go far.”

Prince Fahd dismissed media claims of Saudi ‘sportswashing,’ (accusations that Saudi Arabia is using sporting events to distract from more controversial government policies).

When asked whether boxing was the appropriate avenue through which to discuss claims of ‘sportswashing,’ Prince Fahd said it was “not reasonable” to expect athletes to address such issues.

“You don’t comment on something that is not reasonable,” he said. “I always tell the people to just come to Saudi and see Saudi by yourself and you meet the people, then you will change your mind.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn, Chairman of Matchroom Sport, echoed a similar sentiment.

Eddie Hearn poses for a picture at a press conference in the Shangri-La Hotel ahead of the Rage on the Red Sea boxing event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 17, 2022.
Eddie Hearn poses for a picture at a press conference in the Shangri-La Hotel ahead of the Rage on the Red Sea boxing event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on August 17, 2022.

“The criticism that you get... you answer the same questions all the time,” he told Al Arabiya English. “I can only tell you my experience, and what I see, and I’ve seen huge change in the last three years, and still a lot more to come.”

He continued, “Everywhere has their problems and everywhere needs to change. Some places need to change more than others. But if there is change, we’re all for it. Being here versus being here three years ago, I’m seeing the change myself.”

“I’m not lying,” Hearn stressed. “I’m not turning up here going, ‘oh my God, I can't believe what I'm seeing here,’ and I'm just pretending everything’s okay. I like it here, and the experience for us has been fantastic.”

Rage on the Red Sea

Saturday’s Rage on the Red Sea event will be the second major boxing event held in the Kingdom.

The first took place in Riyadh in 2019, and saw Anthony Joshua take on Andy Ruiz Jr. in the Clash on the Dunes match.

The Rage on the Red Sea looks to be a historic event for the Kingdom as it will feature Saudi Arabia’s first professional boxing match between two women – the Dominican Republic’s Crystal Garcia Nova and the British-Somali Ramla Ali.

It will also see the debut of the first ever Saudi professional boxer Ziyad al-Maayouf.

Read more:

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