Boxing matches in Saudi Arabia: Previous fights and major sporting events as Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk meet in Jeddah

Since opening west of King Abdullah Sports City in June 2021, the Jeddah Super Dome, which will host Anthony Joshua’s vendetta against Oleksandr Usyk, has been a symbol of Saudi Arabia’s sporting growth.

The venue set a world record thanks to a roof spanning more than 200m – the largest ever for a dome of this type – and hosted the seventh WWE wrestling event in the country as part of a 10-year partnership with the promotion .

Boxing, too, will attend the 35,000-capacity setting in the final bout in Saudi Arabia.

Who has fought in the country before? What happened there in Joshua’s previous fight? Here are some of the blockbuster events the country has hosted.

WATCH ON DAZN: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2

George Groves vs Callum Smith, September 2018

The World Boxing Super Series crown and WBA super middleweight title were at stake as England fighters George Groves and Callum Smith met at Sports City.

“It could be the start of something big down there,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said of Saudi Arabia at the time. “There isn’t a promoter of any importance on this planet who hasn’t traveled to this region to try and practice boxing.”

Sauerland likened the event to “The Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974, when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, and the “Thrilla in Manila” a year later, when Ali and Joe Frazier met in a trilogy match in the Philippines .


Groves had been in one of Britain’s most attended fights of all time, losing to Carl Froch in the rematch at Wembley in 2014, and the Londoner was knocked out by Liverpudlian Smith in the seventh round in Saudi Arabia.

Andy Ruiz vs. Anthony Joshua, December 2019

Andy Ruiz, a backup opponent who had failed to win his only world title three years earlier, didn’t surprise too many when the American originally faced Joshua in New York in June 2019.

In a seismic shock, Joshua was troubled almost from the start by a fighter who appeared to be clearly inferior to him and the fight was waved off in the seventh round to set up a major rematch that took place at the Diriyah Arena in December.

The road to Saudi Arabia was remarkably lucrative for both fighters. Joshua is believed to have made around $60million (£49.2million) from the second scrap.

Rather than trade with the provably dangerous Ruiz, Joshua boxed cleverly to regain his titles, carefully avoiding firepower to secure a unanimous decision in the Clash on the Dunes.

Ruiz and Joshua - circumcised

Ruiz later spoke of his regrets about his lifestyle and weight gain between fights, but many fans felt a connection with the likable underdog who had shown understandable fallibility amid the riches that came with one of the biggest and most convincing upsets of all time.

Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk, August 2022

In his 20th professional fight, Usyk will defend the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight titles he won against Joshua in September 2021 at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The Ukrainians set an unbeaten record for an Aug. 20 bout dubbed the “Rage on the Red Sea.”

Smith is part of the undercard this time and meets 2016 Olympics bronze medalist Mathieu Bauderlique.

MORE: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2: What’s next for AJ after heavyweight title showdown in Saudi Arabia?

Somali boxer Ramla Ali will also be in Saudi Arabia’s first professional women’s fight and will face Dominican Crystal Garcia Nova in her seventh fight.

The 32-year-old model, author and racial equality activist is directed by Joshua and became her country’s first boxer to compete in the 2021 Olympics.

What other international sporting events took place in Saudi Arabia?

More and more notable sporting events are taking place in Saudi Arabia. British driver Lewis Hamilton won the country’s first-ever Formula One Grand Prix in December 2021 and reigning champion Max Verstappen won the second the following March.

King Abdullah International Stadium, King Saud University Stadium, King Fahd International Stadium, Mohammed Abdu Arena and the Super Dome have all hosted WWE events since 2018.

Real Madrid have won both editions of the four-team Supercopa de Espana played in Saudi Arabia, beating Atletico Madrid on penalties in January 2020 at the King Abdullah International Stadium and two years later at the King Fahd International Stadium against Athletic Bilbao.

The Supercoppa Italiana has also been held twice in Saudi Arabia in recent seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal as Juventus beat AC Milan at King Abdullah Sports City in January 2019 and the Bianconeri were defeated 3-1 by Lazio a year later at King Saud University Stadium.

The penultimate round of the eight-event LIV Golf Invitational Series will be held at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in October, and the Saudi Cup – the world’s richest horse race with a prize pool of $20 million – has been held annually since 2020.

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