British boxer Anthony Joshua says he's 'unaware of sportswashing' ahead of Saudi bout

British boxer Anthony Joshua says he's 'unaware of sportswashing' ahead of Saudi bout
2 min read
23 June, 2022
British boxer Anthony Joshua has drawn flack for failing to comment on Saudi Arabia's highly-criticised track record on human rights.
Anthony Joshua has already participated in boxing matches in Saudi Arabia [Getty]

British boxing champion Anthony Joshua has been slammed for saying that he "doesn’t know what sportswashing is" when questioned on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record ahead of a boxing match taking place in the kingdom.

Joshua, who is due to face Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk in a highly anticipated re-rematch in Jeddah later this summer, insisted that he will be in Saudi Arabia "to have a good time".

Joshua, often considered one of the world's best heavyweight boxers, will be looking to win back several belts which he lost to the Ukrainian when he faces him again in the Saudi coastal city's Super Dome in August.

When asked about Saudi Arabia during a press conference, Joshua insisted on keeping his focus on the match and said he simply intends to "mix with local people and bring entertainment" to the Gulf kingdom.

"I'm here to win the heavyweight champion of the world," he said.

"I like Saudi. I think Saudi's good. I'm having a good time here. I'm treated really well.

"All that allegation stuff, for me, I’m not caught up in any of that stuff."

Perspectives

Saudi Arabia has faced numerous accusations of sportswashing - using high profile sports events as a smokescreen for its poor human rights record.

In recent years, the country has hosted a number of high-profile sporting and entertainment events, including WWE bouts and Formula 1 races.

The kingdom has already spent at least $1.5 billion on such events, which were launched by de factor ruler and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to help promote Saudi Arabia’s image across the world, particularly in the wake of the murder of Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Sportswashing has been defined as attempting to "use the glamour and prestige of big-money sporting events as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record", by Amnesty International.

The country was recently faced with such accusations following the participation of several renowned golfers in the Saudi-funded LIV golf series events, with rights groups urging competitors to speak out on abuses in the kingdom, such as the detaining of activists.

Joshua had already come under fire for posing with Crown Prince Mohammed in a picture following a boxing match in Riyadh in 2019, drawing the ire of activists.