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Anthony Joshua’s return adds to Saudi Arabia’s sporting portfolio

Anthony Joshua, right, previously fought Andy Ruiz in Riyadh (Nick Potts/PA)
Anthony Joshua, right, previously fought Andy Ruiz in Riyadh (Nick Potts/PA)

Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Oleksandr Usyk has been announced for Saudi Arabia on August 20.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the other contests staged in the country.

Formula One

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix took place in December 2021 with a night race in Jeddah, featuring the fastest street circuit in the sport, and returned there in March to even more controversy when a missile strike on an oil refinery 10 miles from the track threatened a walkout by drivers. The event also took place against a backdrop of human rights issues as just days before the country had carried out the mass execution of 81 men.

Boxing

Anthony Joshua in the ring after his fight against Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia
Joshua has fought in Saudi Arabia before when reclaiming the IBF, WBA, WBO & IBO World belts from Andy Ruiz at the Diriyah Arena (Nick Potts/PA)

Joshua has fought in the country before. He reclaimed his heavyweight world titles by defeating Andy Ruiz Jr in the so-called ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Riyadh in December 2019. The hotly-anticipated rematch followed Amir Khan’s WBC international welterweight victory over Australian Billy Dib in Jeddah in 2019.

Football

Two Italian Super Cup finals have been held in Saudi Arabia. Juventus – thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal – beat AC Milan in Jeddah in January 2019, before they lost 3-1 to Lazio in Riyadh later that year. Real Madrid have won two Spanish Super Cups in Jeddah, the first in 2020 when they beat Atletico and again this year with victory over Athletic Bilbao.

Golf

Established in 2019, the Saudi International became the first European Tour event to be played in the country. Rory McIlroy ruled out competing at the 2020 tournament, confirming there was “a morality” behind his decision. Fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell went on to win the event, while Dustin Johnson won the inaugural staging and added another title in 2021. The controversial LIV Golf Series, bankrolled by Saudi Arabian money, touches down in Jeddah in October as the penultimate round of the eight-event series. Following that is the Aramco Team Series event in the city, which was spawned from the Saudi Ladies Team International in 2020.

Wrestling

The WWE has been holding events in Saudi Arabia since 2018. There have been seven visits there so far with a second this year scheduled for November. Joshua’s fellow heavyweight Tyson Fury has appeared at an event in Saudi Arabia before when he made his debut at the ‘Crown Jewel’ event in October 2019, where he beat Braun Strowman at the King Fahd International Stadium.

Horse racing

The world’s richest horse race is held in Saudi Arabia. The 20million US dollars (£15.2million) Saudi Cup has been staged for the last three years at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.

Motorsport

The last three editions of the Dakar Rally were held in Saudi Arabia and it is scheduled to return in 2023. Carlos Sainz, father of Formula One driver Carlos Sainz Jr, won 2020’s car event, with two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso finishing 13th. For the last four years Formula E has taken a race to the street circuit in Riyadh.

Snooker

October 2020 was scheduled to see Saudi Arabia host a ranking event for the first time, under a 10-year partnership deal with World Snooker. But the inaugural Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters in Riyadh – which was set to have a total fund of £2.5million, including a top prize of £500,000 – was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.