Usyk vs Joshua 2 date set for Aug 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

The official countdown to one of the biggest heavyweight rematches in the history of the sport has started with unified Heavyweight World Champion Oleksandr Usyk facing off with Anthony Joshua in the coastal city of Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Billed as ‘Rage on the Red Sea’, Usyk vs. Joshua 2, is set to take place in Jeddah on Saturday 20th August with Usyk’s WBA ‘Super’, IBF, WBO and IBO belts on the line in a career defining heavyweight clash, and the hype for the much-anticipated rematch is already building.

At the start of a two-city promotional tour across Jeddah and London the two colossals of the sport lined up toe to toe as the sun set above the stunning Red Sea after the duo sparred verbally during the first official press conference.

Speaking publicly for the first time having been on the front lines of his homeland in Ukraine, Usyk, the undefeated reigning champion, former Olympic gold medalist and former Undisputed Cruiserweight World Champion Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs), said: “I am very happy to be here in Saudi Arabia. It is very pleasant for me and my team. We are doing what we have to do to achieve our goals. I have never made any loud or bright speeches. To become world champion all I did was work hard in my training camp and gym. That’s what I am going to do until the day of the fight and my boxing will make me happy.” 

Alex Krassyuk, of K2 Management, representing Usyk added: “Thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It’s a big honour to be here. This is a huge event. It took us a lot of effort and will to make this fight happen. In February, we had to face the challenge of war in our country. We were not sure if this fight would ever take place. But now we are here representing our country with pride in our hearts in a new destination for world sport. Let the best man win.”             

The fight which is held under the patronage of HRH Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 ambitions, is a second for Joshua in Saudi Arabia and takes place nearly three years on from the historic ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Diriyah that saw Joshua reclaim his Heavyweight crowns against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Ready for revenge over Usyk in a fight described by Eddie Hearn as the most important in his life, a motivated and fired up, Joshua said: “The hunger is still there. Blips happen in life but I have the resilience, mental toughness to come back. I’m focused on the target, the goal, and winning the Heavyweight Championship of the world. I took the defeat in September like a man. I am not a hater. I respect people and I am accountable. I was wrong, he was right. I will reverse that on August 20th in Jeddah. Sometimes if you keep things simple great things can happen. I can’t wait to see you all again in a few weeks’ time.”

New trainer to Anthony Joshua, Robert Garcia, who is looking to secure his 15th world championship, stated: “I see a different Anthony now. Everything he practices and everything he does is different now. We will do everything it takes to win the titles back. He is the stronger man with the bigger reach. Rematches are always a different challenge. Anthony has all the tools to beat him. Now is the time to work. Even on his days off, he’s learning. He wants to be champion again and I have no doubt he will. I know how much he wants it and that motivates me too.”

The fight is the latest international sports event to take place in Saudi Arabia, which has recently emerged as one of the fastest growing countries in world sport. Its investment in sport is designed to inspire the Saudi people to live active lives with levels in participation increasing more than 300% over the last 5 years.

Prince Fahad bin Abdulaziz, spokesperson of Skill Challenge Entertainment, global rights holder for the fight added, “We want to hold the biggest and best events in Saudi Arabia for our people and for the world to enjoy. We are living in unprecedented era for sporting growth in Saudi Arabia. We are inspiring a new generation and that’s what motivates us.” 

Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn said, “It feels fantastic to be here. These things take time so thanks for the patience. Last September was very painful and we look forward to Anthony Joshua taking back his titles. It is amazing to see the growth of boxing in the Kingdom since the Clash on the Dunes in 2019. It is so important to inspire the next generation. There is no greater prize in boxing and no better role models for young people to engage with. Boxing is like no other sport for getting fit, getting healthy, for mental wellbeing and for bringing people together. We’re fans of the sport so want to see if grow and that’s exactly what is happening in Saudi Arabia when we stage fights like this here.”

Today’s press conference saw the boxing icons share a stage with the Saudi Boxing Federation who proudly launched a new strategy aimed to encouraging over half a million Saudis into boxing. The strategy built of three pillars from grassroots to professional status, will seek to reach all age groups, men and women, boys and girls through the country either for physical fitness or exercise and a further 5,000 as registered athletes taking part in competitive bouts. Since the first heavyweight championship fight in the Kingdom, there has been a 300% surge in male and female boxers.

Speaking to media at the launch the President of the Saudi Arabian Boxing Federation, Abdullah Eid added: “There is a massive focus on the youth of this country. We want our people to see the stars and get active in the sports they watch. We want our young people to participate. To lead healthy lives. From trainers, to coaches and referees, from gyms offering boxing for exercise, everything is focused on increasing participation.”  

Joshua was dethroned as heavyweight king by Oleksandr Usyk in September 2021 in front of over 60,000 fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on a memorable evening in boxing’s marquee division.

Vision 2030 aims to improve the quality of life of residents and visitors to the Kingdom by developing a vibrant environment for participation and spectatorship in sports and entertainment whilst aiming to transform the Kingdom for a post-hydrocarbon era. The nation has become one of the fastest growing countries in world sport with increased participation levels, investment in elite athletes, a year-round schedule of sport and a rapidly growing commercial sector to support this infrastructure.

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