Amnesty International has hit out at the possibility of Saudi Arabia staging the world heavyweight title rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
Usyk outpointed Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September to claim the WBA, IBF and WBO belts and the Ukrainian’s promoter Alexander Krassyuk disclosed a return bout could occur in late June.
While an outdoor stadium in London was thought to be the preferred option, Krassyuk told BBC Sport “discussions” are taking place with officials from Saudi Arabia, which continues to face heavy scrutiny over its human rights record.
Joshua was criticised for fighting there when he regained his world titles by defeating Andy Ruiz Jr in December 2019, with Saudi Arabia accused of attempting to ‘sportswash’ its international reputation.
Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s Economic Affairs Director, told the PA news agency: “If these early discussions result in yet another high-profile fight in Saudi Arabia then it will prove once again that Saudi Arabia’s enormous appetite for sportswashing is nowhere near sated yet.”
Formula One went back to Jeddah last weekend following the Gulf Kingdom’s debut appearance in the sport in December but Lewis Hamilton admitted to feeling uncomfortable given the human rights issues there.
Last Friday, human rights group Reprieve said a further 16 people have been killed since the mass execution on March 12 of 81 men, more than half of whom had taken part in pro-democracy protests, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.