By: Sean Crose
“Saudi is the place we are in discussions with at the moment,” Oleksandr Usyk’s promoter, Alexander Krassyuk has told the BBC. “Late June is the date we are looking at. Nothing has been confirmed on paper. We are working on it.” Though Krassyuk admits that there are no guarantees (“There are other options but we take it step by step”) is appears Saudi Arabia may again be the place where Anthony Joshua fights to regain his heavyweight title belts. Back in 2019, Joshua traveled to the middle eastern kingdom to regain his WBA, WBO and IBF straps from Andy Ruiz, who had won them from the Englishman in a stunning upset the previous June in New York.
Now Joshua might face Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia to win back the belts the Ukrainian won off him via decision last fall. Although Saudi Arabia is a unique and lucrative location to host a high caliber fight, the nation (as well as any major sporting event that goes down there) draws a large degree of criticism. ” The Gulf Kingdom state’s human rights record and recent security concerns,” writes the BBC, “will once again be highlighted should such a high-profile sporting event be hosted in the country.”
Although Usyk was a highly regarded fighter when he stepped into the ring to face Joshua the first time last September, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion’s victory over the popular Joshua came as something of a surprise. So impressive was Usyk in the ring that evening that some are now wondering if the towering Joshua can actually win the impending rematch. With that being said, Joshua changed his approach to fighting Ruiz the second time around and ended up handily outboxing his former conqueror, successfully winning back his title belts in the process.
As for Usyk, the man has left war torn Ukraine in order to prepare for the second Joshua fight. After Russia began it’s invasion of his homeland, Usyk freely returned to Ukraine to do his part, earning accolades for his obvious courage. Now that he’s once again entering the fight world, Usyk has the support of no less notable Ukrainians than former heavyweight titlists Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. ‘There are pros and cons and it’s a hard decision to make for Oleksandr Usyk,” Wladimir has said, “but to have the Ukrainian flag raised and our anthem played and one of our ambassadors of our country out there in the world with the right mindset could be more positive than negative.”
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