Promoter Frank Warren is certain that a pair of “super” fights he will be helping to stage in Saudi Arabia in the next few months will not be the last—far from it.
Warren’s London-based Queensberry Promotions will be co-promoting the Oct. 28 heavyweight “crossover” match between their client, Tyson Fury, the WBC champion, and former UFC star Francis Ngannou, followed by the undisputed heavyweight championship between Fury and WBA, WBO, IBF unified champion Oleksandr Usyk, reportedly either on Dec. 23 or in January.
Both fights will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is fast becoming a capital destination for tentpole events in boxing—to say nothing of the general trend in the Middle East for garnering rights to major sports properties.
Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, is presiding over both fights as part of “Riyadh Season.”
Warren, who promotes Fury with Las Vegas-based Top Rank, believes his relationship with Alashikh and Co. will lead to more business being done in that region in the future—even if it means appealing fights ideal for British fight fans will not actually take place on British soil.
“The good news for the fans that can’t get to Saudi, is that they can watch them on prime time in the UK,” Warren told Pro Boxing Fans. “They’re not going to sit up until four or five o’clock in the morning. So that’s the great news. And the real great news is that the fights are being made. They’re happening.
“This I hope will be the first of many, many big events that are going on over there, which I know that it will be. So, this is fabulous. It’s fabulous for boxing. Things are happening. There’s a real buzz about things now.”
Asked to comment on the fallout of rival promoter Eddie Hearn’s plans to stage a fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, Warren seemed to suggest Hearn had the wrong partners. Hearn was in talks with a nascent Saudi Arabian company called Skill Challenge Entertainment.
“It’s happening if you’re over this side,” Warren said of delivering big fights. “On the other side, they’re not happening.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.