By: Sean Crose
On the eve of the much hyped Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua heavyweight title rematch set to go down in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, a Saudi woman has reportedly been given a lengthy prison sentence for remarks she made on Twitter. Per the BBC, “Salma al-Shehab, 34, a Saudi citizen and mother of two, was arrested in 2021 while on holiday in the kingdom.” Now she has been sentenced in Saudi Arabia to 34 years in prison. Why? Because “before the trip she had called for reforms and the release of activists.” Al-Shehab’s story is making headlines across the globe.
Her story is also breaking just as Saudi Arabia is about to host one of the biggest sporting events of the year in Usyk-Joshua 2. All major parties involved are likely set to make large sums of money on the fight, which is scheduled for Saturday at the Superdome in Jeddah. It will be the challenger Joshua’s second bout in Saudi Arabia. He won his title belts back from Andy Ruiz in the Middle Eastern nation in late 2019 and is now trying to win them back once more this weekend when he faces Usyk for the second time.
“I want to say thank you to all who made it possible for us to fight here in Saudi Arabia,” Ukraine’s Usyk said at a Wednesday press conference at Jeddah’s Shangri-La Hotel. “Prince Khaled, thank you so much. It is very important for me, my team, my country, and I’m really happy to be here. It’s not my first time, it’s my third time in Saudi Arabia. I feel like I’m going to be here again and again.” Joshua, too, had warm words for the host nation during the press conference. “Thanks to everyone in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “My friends, my team at the front there Prince Khaled, Skill Challenge and his family as well. Shout out to everyone first and foremost for taking care of us while we’ve been here.”
Usyk, whose own Ukrainian homeland has been under bloody attack from Russian forces since last winter has been seen as a kind of representative for his beleaguered countrymen. Al-Sehahb, who is a PHD student at England’s Leeds University, and who has also been described as an activist, had, per the BBC, “tweeted or retweeted several messages calling for reforms in Saudi Arabia and the release of prominent activists, clerics and other intellectuals. “
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