Turki Alalshikh has brazenly become perhaps the most prominent power broker in boxing over the past few months.
As chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Alalshikh has been afforded the vast financial resources by his polarizing country’s government to fully finance many of the biggest boxing matches that have taken place or been scheduled since late in October. Alalshikh is also very passionate about a now niche sport he hopes regains what he believes is its prestigious, rightful place worldwide.
Aside from his genuine love of boxing, the 42-year-old Alalshikh indicated during an interview with DAZN’s Ade Oladipo that he has a deeply personal reason for putting together so many high-profile fights in such a short span of time.
“I like to work,” Alalshikh stated during a 19-minute question-and-answer session DAZN posted on its social media platforms and website Wednesday. “I like it for my country and for the trust of my king [King Salman], God bless him, and the trust of the crown prince [Mohammed bin Salman] for me. And I even have a personal situation and reason. I have a lot of health [issues] in the last five years, maybe. And this has [made] me want to do everything and to see it in my life.”
Alalshikh didn’t divulge details related to his declining health, but his words shed light on perhaps why he was so insistent on staging the “Day of Reckoning” event December 23 at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. That stacked card, which featured eight pay-per-view bouts, occurred only eight weeks after former UFC heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou nearly upset unbeaten WBC champ Tyson Fury in Ngannou’s professional boxing debut October 28 at Kingdom Arena.
The very costly Fury-Oleksandr Usyk title unification fight, scheduled for February 17 at Kingdom Arena, will take place just eight weeks after the extremely expensive “Day of Reckoning” card on which England’s Joshua, a former IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champ, stopped Sweden’s Otto Wallin after the fifth round in the main event and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker upset American Deontay Wilder by unanimous decision in the 12-round co-feature, another battle between former champs. Barring a draw or no-contest, Fury or Usyk will become boxing’s first fully unified heavyweight champion of the four-belt era.
Less than three weeks after England’s Fury finally faces Ukraine’s Usyk, Joshua and Ngannou will meet March 8 in another pricey pay-per-view main event at Kingdom Arena. China’s Zhilei Zhang will defend his WBO interim heavyweight title against Parker in the co-feature before Joshua squares off against Ngannou.
“We are coming with new strategy,” Alalshikh said, “and new idea and new vision … to do and deliver to the market the best [fights], with good price, and make the [fights] that people want to see. We don’t want to waste time. Tyson Fury is 35 now, around 35. Joshua is around 33, I think. Usyk [is] around 36, Wilder 38, 37. Artur [Beterbiev] now 39, next week. Why we are losing time?
“The people need to see Joshua-Fury, Fury-Joshua, need to see Joshua-Wilder. And I hope Wilder [comes] back. You know, and there is rumor, and you know it, the fight was between Joshua and Wilder [for March 8]. But you see the result and the body condition of Wilder now. It would not be reasonable to have the fight now. We want him to come back. And I see Parker, what he’s doing, amazing show, and he’s one of the best boxer [who has come back] now, this year.”
This unprecedented Saudi spending spree Alalshikh executed has even brought together bitter British promotional rivals Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren and left legendary promoter Bob Arum, 92, referring to a man less than half his age as “his excellency.” While appreciative of the praise he has received, Alalshikh made it clear that this boxing boom in Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be possible without assistance from those levels above him.
“I want to tell you I don’t have the magic,” Alalshikh said. “I have something more powerful than magic. Behind me there is two big [mountains]. You cannot see the end of the mountain. The king and the crown prince support what we are doing. We cannot do this without their support.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.