Dereck Chisora wants to see more fights in Saudi Arabia despite controversies surrounding the Middle Eastern nation.
The British heavyweight believes fighters deserve to be richly rewarded for their efforts in the ring and that only Saudi Arabia can offer that right now, despite the buzzing heavyweight scene in London and the UK.
Saudi authorities reportedly paid £30million to host Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, with enormous pay-per-view income added to that figure, making it a handsome pay day for both fighters.
Chisora is unconcerned by Saudi’s human rights record and claims it’s an ‘amazing’ country after visiting for the Joshua fight.
He exclusively told RadioTimes.com: “My belief first of all was that Saudi Arabia was not great, but when I went there to see Saudi Arabia for myself, I was like ‘wow, this is amazing’.
“What happened before, a couple of years ago, that’s history. Now they’re opening up the gates to everybody.
“I was there and the trip was unbelievable, I felt safe, I went to a good restaurant, we hung out. Yeah, they don’t allow alcohol, which is good, you know people enjoy life without alcohol so it was amazing.
“I think more fights should happen in Saudi Arabia. Right now, from what I’m hearing, they’re building a massive stadium which is going to be called the ‘Mecca of Boxing’. It’s going to be amazing.”
Chisora blamed TV broadcasters for essentially driving fighters to Saudi Arabia by not paying more for talent in the UK.
The self-branded War Machine alluded to several examples of past fighters who haven’t been able to retire comfortably, and believes Saudi offers the chance for more stars to end their careers in comfort.
He said: “The fighters will fight but they want to get paid more, and Saudi are saying they will pay more. Tell the TV broadcasters in London to pay the fighters more so they don’t have to go to Saudi.
“After this is all done, I look at Michael Sprott, you know. He was a good fighter, he never got paid so much money but now he’s doing deliveries for Amazon. And this was a good fighter. If he was there to fight in Saudi, he wouldn’t be doing that.
“There’s fighters out there, Kevin Mitchell, great fighter, he never made much money because they didn’t pay him. If the Saudi gates were open when he was fighting, he would’ve made money. I believe fighters should get more money so when they retire, they retire, they don’t do anything else apart from living a good life. They’ve earned it.”
Chisora was set to take on Oleksandr Usyk at the O2 Arena last week, but the bout was postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He claims he will fight in MMA series Bellator later this year for a one-off showdown before returning to the ring to resume his heavyweight career.
It remains to be seen whether he will land a bout in Saudi Arabia before the end of his career, but there is growing unease over Saudi’s apparent ‘sportwashing’.
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is set to take over from Mike Ashley as owners of Premier League football team Newcastle United, a move that has attracted the attention of Amnesty.
In April, Felix Jakens, UK head of campaigns, said: “We still need to see it for what it is: Saudi Arabia attempting to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football as a PR tool to distract from the country’s abysmal human rights record.
“While it’s not for us to say who should own Newcastle United all businesses need to safeguard against any possible complicity in human rights violations.
“To some degree sports-washing can be countered if interested parties are prepared to break its spell. We’d call on Newcastle United staff and fans to familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it.”
Jakens also spoke last year about the controversial Joshua fight. He said: “This was never about asking Anthony Joshua to be some kind of human rights superhero. It’s simply a request that he use his incredibly high profile to speak out about human rights in Saudi Arabia.
“For years the Saudi authorities have been trying to sportswash their image, so when major sporting stars agree to go there it’s a great opportunity to redress the balance – with, for example, a tweet in solidarity with jailed activists, or a few remarks in interviews about the wider human rights situation.”