Reported Saudi Arabia Concept Could Cure Many Boxing Ills

A report that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has initiated exploratory conversations with boxing promoters to consolidate fights under a primary banner or "league" could allow for the next step in what the nation has already done in staging some of the biggest bouts of the past year.

Following reporting by Reuters, a boxing official who’s been briefed on the talks told BoxingScene Tuesday that the effort is to launch the project in 2025 with an expectation that the cards will be anchored by bouts in "the heavier weights."

Saudi Arabia’s His Excellency Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, has spoken previously of plans to reconstruct a sport he feels is “broken.”

And he’s won cooperation among all the major fight promoters – Queensberry’s Frank Warren, Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn, Top Rank’s Bob Arum – to make a series of major heavyweight bouts, including the May 18 undisputed championship won by Oleksandr Usyk over Tyson Fury.

On his Aug. 3 card in Los Angeles, Alalshikh will add fighters from Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions, and he had previously struck a deal with Golden Boy Promotions’ Oscar De La Hoya to put unbeaten junior-middleweight Vergil Ortiz Jr. on the card before planned opponent Tim Tszyu withdrew due to injury.

The Reuters report said the Saudi Arabian firm would take “a minor stake” from bringing together the newly allied promoters.

The fractions of boxing have long been a contributing factor to the sport’s decreased popularity from the glory days of heavyweight action in the 1970s, as fights ripe to be made have been stalled or scrapped due to the various agendas of promoters and their respective broadcasters.

The complication of four sanctioning bodies creating four champions -- sometimes more -- in one weight class has also watered down the importance of many bouts.

By staging and financially supporting fights that will include the Oct. 12 undisputed light-heavyweight bout between unbeaten Russian world champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol, and the Dec. 21 Usyk-Fury rematch, Alalshikh and Saudi Arabia have conducted a paradigm shift for the sport.

Warren and Hearn – long-bitter rivals in the U.K. – actually worked together June 1 to stage their “5 versus 5” tournament card in Saudi Arabia that Warren's team swept.

That team concept was a success and may again be in play in this league plan, although the finer details of how this alliance would work are unknown at this hour.

Another format tried previously was a weight-class tournament format. Prior entries such as the World Boxing Super Series crowned Usyk the undisputed cruiserweight champion and Showtime’s past “Super Six” tournament had unbeaten Hall of Famer Andre Ward as last man standing.

While representatives from promotions including Matchroom, Golden Boy and Top Rank declined to discuss the Reuters report with BoxingScene, the potential for a plan to stage the best possible bouts is an obvious boon to a sport that has long drawn massive interest to its greatest events.

World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman said he’s heard “nothing” of this concept or how close it is to becoming reality, but he supports the idea.

“Since the first day (of Saudi influence), it has been speculated that it could be something (bigger),” Sulaiman said. “What I have experienced so far is a series of sensational promotions with high-profile fighters and fights, great innovation in promoting the cards in many ways, and everyone in the industry hoping to be part of this new promotional venture.”