British heavyweight, Anthony Joshua has said he is in Saudi Arabia for boxing when questioned over the controversy surrounding his world-title challenge against Oleksandr Usyk this weekend.
Speaking at a media event in Jeddah, the 32-year-old added: “That’s all I can really say. I think it’s been an amazing experience for me.
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“I’ve been out with the people. Walking with the people. I’ve been in the local gym. I don’t really lock myself away. It’s been nice for me. I don’t really know what else I can say on that. I need to get the job done on Saturday.”
The Kingdom has sought to stage sporting and entertainment events in recent years in a bid to attract visitors and move away from its oil-dependent economy.
But human rights organisation, Amnesty International has highlighted the country’s “abysmal” human rights record.
Heavy restrictions on freedom of expression, women’s rights and the treatment of the LGBT community have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law and the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
Joshua will be fighting in Saudi Arabia for the second time, having beaten Andy Ruiz in the capital Riyadh in 2019.
Amnesty UK says the country’s strategy of staging major sports – known as Vision 2030 – is deflecting the conversation away from “The big story about Saudi Arabia”.
The Kingdom has hosted Formula 1, tennis and other major sporting events in recent years, while the Saudi-funded LIV Golf league this year has seen players accepting huge appearance fees to take part.