Top Saudi royal left 'devastated' after Joshua-Fury fight date axed
Fury and Joshua had been close to finalising the lucrative fight to crown the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 1999, before Deontay Wilder won a recent arbitration hearing triggering a trilogy fight with Fury.
In comments reported by DAZN, Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, claimed to have piled pressure on Saudi representatives to ensure the fight was held in August, despite facing resistance and calls for it to be held later in the year.
Prince Khaled bin Salman Al Saud, Riyadh's deputy defense minister and brother of de facto ruler Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, was closely involved in organising Joshua’s 2019 showdown with Andy Ruiz. He was left "devastated" by the date's suspension, according to Hearn.
"It's very disappointing for them [the Saudis]. They planned to build a stadium for this."
Hearn did not elaborate further on the stadium plans but media reports had suggested the fight would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Riyadh's moves to hold large-scale sporting events in a bid to diversify the economy's reliance on oil have led the government to be accused of 'sportswashing' its human rights abuses.
The Saudi bid has been described as a classic example of sportswashing, or reputation laundering https://t.co/Ajen6yqhPL— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) June 12, 2020
These include the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the jailing of prominent women’s rights activists and suspected war crimes in Yemen.
In April, Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's widow, reportedly called on Joshua and Fury to turn down the fight deal, saying it would grants MbS – who the CIA believe personally approved Khashoggi's murder – a financial "reward for his crimes".