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Fury urged to highlight Saudi's 'disturbing' human rights record
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Press Association
Tyson Fury during the launch press conference of his boxing contest with mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou (James Manning/PA)
Tyson Fury during the launch press conference of his boxing contest with mixed martial arts fighter Francis Ngannou (James Manning/PA)

Tyson Fury has been urged to use his platform to highlight Saudi Arabia’s “disturbing” human rights record after he claimed the Middle East country will host all the big sporting events within the next decade.

Fury will fight in Riyadh on October 28 against former UFC world heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a boxing bout which has been described as an ‘historic event’ by his Queensberry and Top Rank promoters despite his WBC belt not being on the line.

It will not be the first time Fury has been the main attraction in Saudi Arabia after he took part in a wrestling contest with Braun Strowman at King Fahd International Stadium four years ago, but he will now follow in the footsteps of Anthony Joshua by boxing in a country with a poor human rights record.

Joshua faced criticism ahead of his 2019 clash with Andy Ruiz Jr in Diriyah, located just outside of Riyadh, and before his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah last year from human rights group Amnesty International.

Amnesty has now turned its focus to Fury, who predicted Saudi Arabia will became “the powerhouse of all sports” during Thursday’s launch press conference for his bout with Ngannou, while Saudi advisor Turki Alalshikh was frequently thanked for organising the event in Riyadh.

Fury said: “I have fought in the Riyadh season before in 2019 for the WWE Crown Jewel and I knocked out the Monster Among Men Braun Strowman and I will knock out another big dosser here in him (Ngannou).

“It is a very special event for me and a special time in sports where a powerhouse like Saudi Arabia are coming in taking over the game.

“They are taking over football, taking over boxing, I think within five to 10 years they will be the powerhouse of all sports. All the big sporting events will be in Saudi Arabia somewhere.”

The Riyadh season, which since 2019 runs from October to March and sees several big entertainment events taking place in the city, was referenced repeatedly during Thursday’s press conference in London but there was no mention of homosexuality being illegal and a punishable death in Saudi, nor the accusations the state faces for placing harsh restrictions on women’s rights.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said in a statement to the PA news agency: “Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a sporting ‘powerhouse’ are part of a major sportswashing drive from the Saudi authorities who are intent on trying to rebrand the country and distract attention from the country’s appalling human rights record.

“At the same time that Saudi Arabia’s been shovelling money into eye-catching sporting ventures, it’s been cracking down on human rights at home, with peaceful activists jailed, a staggering 196 people executed last year alone, and Jamal Khashoggi’s grisly murder still the subject of a state cover-up.

“Only last week, we had news that retired teacher Mohammad bin Nasser al-Ghamdi has been sentenced to death by a Saudi court for his remarks on Twitter and YouTube, and meanwhile the Leeds University PhD student Salma al-Shehab is serving a 27-year jail sentence for tweeting her support for Saudi women’s rights activists.

“As far back as Anthony Joshua’s Saudi fight against Andy Ruiz, we were saying that sporting stars needed to understand the dynamics of sportswashing and be prepared counter it by speaking out about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.

“Tyson Fury should take the time to examine Saudi Arabia’s disturbing human rights record and use his platform to draw attention to the plight of people like Salma al-Shehab and Mohammad bin Nasser al-Ghamdi.”

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