So far, so good. Eddie Hearn has been so impressed by fight week in Saudi Arabia that he believes that it could soon rival Las Vegas as the home of the big fights.
Saudi Arabia is understood to have put up around $40 million as a site fee for the heavyweight rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua and while that sort of money would only be forthcoming for very few fights, Hearn, the promoter, suggested that they were interested in staging a fight between Joshua and Deontay Wilder, as well as a rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
“They want to make Saudi the home of boxing,” Hearn said. “That's their plan and I know the fights they are already looking at for next year. We also know every man and his dog are talking to Abu Dhabi and Qatar – that's just the way it works now. You're going to see loads of Middle East fights moving forward.
“There are two reasons we’re here. One is the neutral venue work made it easier to do a deal with Ruiz and get it over the line, and the second is the financial package.
“There's a premium to pay for entry for a country like this who doesn't have the tradition of fight in the country. This isn't a case of an unlimited budget spending money to attract fights, they chose this fight because it's the biggest fight in boxing right now.
“They said we’ll do this fight and then next year they’re going to be smart, they're not just going to bleed money, they're going to want to get return on investment. Major organisations of Saudi are sponsoring Saturday's show.
“Over time, everybody has been talking to the Middle East for years and years but since we've done this deal, everybody's been on it. It's got to be significant.”
Hearn feels that criticism of taking the fight to a country with such a dubious human rights record as Saudi Arabia is unfair considering that tennis, golf, Spanish Super Cup football have all agreed to come here, while many western companies do business here.
“Tyson Fury came here with WWE and no one raised an eyebrow,” Hearn said. “I can’t sit here and say it has nothing to do with me, but the bottom line is, I am not a politician. As ruthless as it is, I’ve got a job to do for my fighter. It doesn’t matter what I think, but I am happy and excited at how everything has gone.
“The bigger picture, who knows? The people I am dealing with I believe have very good intentions for the sport of boxing. They want the sport to develop in this territory.”
Things have run smoothly this week, which will encourage other stars head to the country.
“If they're going to be investing this kind of money in the sport, we've got to be realists and say this is what’s going to happen,” Hearn said. “Everyone's coming – Canelo, Pacquiao, maybe Wilder - and they're all coming for one reason – they want the money.”