Carl Froch: Saudi Arabian Money Is ‘Killing’ Boxing

March 16, 2024
2 months
Carl Froch

Former super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch believes Saudi Arabia is “killing” boxing and has demanded more be done to support the sport at grassroots level.

Saudi Arabia is becoming an increasingly prominent player in the world of professional boxing, with several huge fights taking place in the oil-rich kingdom, particularly in the heavyweight division.

Anthony Joshua, the former two-time heavyweight world champion, has fought in Saudi four times, including twice for world titles and most recently in his second-round knockout of MMA star Francis Ngannou.

WBC champion Tyson Fury made his Riyadh debut in October last year, against Ngannou, and will return to the country for his undisputed showdown with Oleksandr Usyk on May 18. Their contracted rematch, penciled in for October, is also expected to be hosted in Saudi Arabia.

Once a nation closed off to international entertainment and influence, Saudi Arabia has made enormous investments in sports, music, art, and culture in an attempt to diversify its economy and welcome foreign tourism. It is all part of ‘Vision 2030’ – a socio-economic strategy led by the Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, to transform the way of life in Saudi Arabia.

Sports have been a key part to the Vision 2030 drive, with Saudi Arabia launching the LIV Golf Series, hosting Formula One races, and buying English soccer club Newcastle United among its many investments.

Froch Demands Boxer Aftercare

However, it’s boxing where the Gulf state has made the biggest impact, and it has been met largely with widespread praise from figures within the sport, who are pleased to see major fights being made when often they might collapse.

The fact Turki AlShaikh – Saudi Arabia’s Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and the mastermind behind the country’s boxing involvement – was recently named the most influential figure in boxing says everything about the sport’s new landscape.

Froch, though, is not entirely convinced and insists if Saudi Arabia really wants to make a lasting impact on boxing, then it should be doing more to grow the support and not just pump millions of dollars into hosting extravagant heavyweight events.

“It’s being ruined by Saudi Arabia at the minute. The money’s killing it,” Froch said when speaking at a lunch hosted by the Boxing Writers’ Club. “There’s a lot of money floating around and not enough getting put back into grassroots boxing, and not enough going into the aftercare of boxing and retired fighters and injured fighters.

“Some of the hundreds of millions being invested could go to the [British Boxing] Board of Control and be used to look after fighters.”

One person who is clearly ecstatic by Saudi investment is Eddie Hearn. The Matchroom Boxing chief has been one of the leading beneficiaries of the lucrative Saudi money being spent on boxing.

‘Most People Are Greedy And Selfish’

In addition to pocketing millions from Joshua’s many bouts in the kingdom, Hearn will also be centrally involved in the Matchroom vs Queensbury, five-vs-five event on June 1 when his fighter, Dimitry Bivol, is expected to headline against Artur Beterbiev for the undisputed light-heavyweight championship.

Froch, who was promoted by Hearn during his career, revealed he has a meeting with his former promoter to discuss ways to better allocate funding throughout the sport – although he admitted he is not hopeful.

“I’m speaking to Eddie Hearn in a couple of weeks and I’m going to try and suggest something. But unfortunately most people are greedy; most people are selfish. It’s just inherent,” he said.

“I’m not calling anybody out. I’m not putting Eddie Hearn in that bracket – but promoters and top fighters only think about one thing and that’s themselves and that’s the sport we’re involved in as well, unfortunately.”

While boxing fans have generally been pleased to see more big fights put on thanks to Saudi Arabia, it hasn’t been free of criticism. There are constant accusations of ‘sportswashing’ – whereby Saudi is using sports to clean its image on the international stage – while the atmosphere at the events has been severely lacking.

Still, it all comes down to money, Froch said. “There’s a lot of money in it at the top level. So I don’t think it’s good for it.”