Saudi’s Fury-Ngannou vanity project uses stars to light up social media

One of the biggest vanity projects in combat sports history was on display in Saudi Arabia today ahead of the weigh-in for the crossover boxing match between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou.

The great and the good of boxing and MMA royalty were in Riyadh, lining up, taking pictures with one another and sharing images and videos across social media.

Of course, there are many who believe this is the latest attempt of the state to sportswash their human rights record, as reported today in the Guardian by Donald McRae, as they have with other sports, from tennis and golf to football and motor racing.

But regardless of that, plenty of fighters and media members have been thrilled to be involved, from both the worlds of MMA and boxing in forming what must be one of the most expensive assemblies of fighting talent ever lined up.

As well as Mike Tyson’s involvement as part of Ngannou’s training set-up over the last few weeks, those on hand in Saudi Arabia from MMA include Frank Mir, Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Israel Adesanya, [former Ngannou foe] Junior Dos Santos and Randy Couture. 

The boxing guest list features a who’s who of modern greats and big names, including Roberto Duran, Roy Jones, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao, Michael Spinks, Joe Calzaghe, Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis, Erik Morales, Amir Khan, Dimitrii Bivol, Bakhodir Jalolov, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Tarver, Teddy Atlas and Frank Sanchez.

For the WBC, Mauricio Sulaiman and Scott Welch are on hand and others in town include Spencer Fearon, Tony Jeffries, Rocky Fielding and Brian Rose.

Many are quick to thank Turki Alalshikh for his hospitality in staging the event and the accompanying extravagancies.

But the big names, flashing lights and opulence remains for many a smokescreen to cover up the common use of the death penalty, capital punishment, the lack of women’s rights and equality and even severe punishments for posts on social media that would be deemed inoffensive in many other nations.