Thursday, May 16

“God bless him,” Tyson Fury responded when asked if he had “one last message” for his opponent Oleksandr Usyk (despite the fact that they will speak again at Friday’s weigh-in and in the hours before they fight). 

“I’ll say a prayer for him before we go out that we both get out the ring in one piece and go home to our families, because that’s what it’s about,” he also said.

Fury has retained an admirable sense of perspective in the days leading up to what is likely to prove his defining fight, but his human side and that perspective likely isn’t what the many broadcasters invested in Fury-Usyk wanted to hear from him at Thursday’s final press conference.

The presence of some travelling fans had finally become apparent on Thursday evening at BLVD City, and while the natural showman in Fury appeared to promise an appearance when he first arrived at the top table, once he had taken his seat he had appeared as ready as almost everyone else for Thursday to conclude.

For Fury and Usyk the stakes are perhaps higher than they have ever been, and there is a professional obligation to attempt to preserve their energy. But there also exists a professional obligation from all of those around them to promote the most significant heavyweight fight for a quarter of a century, and whether it’s the repeated postponements, the heat in Riyadh, the ill-advised timing the build-up events have been scheduled for or the city’s stifling tedium, it seems everyone involved – in honouring every request for an interview and photo opportunity – has little left to give.

Fury refused to look at Usyk when they were instructed to face off at the conclusion of Thursday’s press conference, but for most observers that was as interesting as their latest encounter became.

Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield – the last heavyweights to contest the undisputed title in 1999 – have arrived in Riyadh to be present for the occasion, and 25 years after they fought at the historic Madison Square Garden, where once was staged The Fight of the Century, and then in Las Vegas, BoxingScene would be interested to hear their true thoughts about suitable a venue they actually consider Riyadh to be.

The reality, however – not least given the countless times everyone else involved in Saturday’s promotion has spoken about how apparently glorious it is to be in the “Kingdom” of Saudi Arabia – is that they will likely lie through their teeth as much as almost everyone else. Show up, play the role, and depart richer. It’s little wonder that those bankrolling Saturday’s fight – which remains one to be relished – identified those involved in boxing as among the most buyable assets in the sporting world.

The only indication BoxingScene has found that anyone local has an interest in boxing came away from the neon lights of the tacky entertainment centre at which the majority of the build-up to Saturday has been staged. In the nearby Mike Tyson Boxing Club (Tyson continues to prove he is another of the most buyable of assets) could be seen Teddy Atlas training a host of Saudi Arabian teenagers and children – girls among them. It was tempting to conclude that that may have been a demonstration of a wider improvement for women’s rights in a country where, for all of the faux glitz, reports persist about an oppressive culture. It was equally tempting to ask if that potential demonstration was undermined given it existed in the gym built in the image of a man once convicted of rape.