Oil Money buys you Sport

By Ben Thomsett on September 30, 2018
Oil Money buys you Sport
Groves vs. Smith was a brilliant fight which did our sport a lot of credit. (Photo: Reuters)

So, here we are. The enormous wealth of the Gulf States is drawing a serious eye from those most pragmatic of money-getters: the boxing promoter…

Somewhere, in a science fiction film that may never have existed, there was a planet dedicated to leisure. Sometimes I remember it as being garish and bras—a Vegas meets Atlantic City—and at other times it was always refined, good willed, and cool. Like Vegas, I wondered what drew people to it in the first place, before the hotels were built and the public fleeced like stolen sheep. After all, the genius behind the best leisure spots are that they make you feel they are doing you a favor; that you are in control of where the money goes, and how.

Money comes and goes fast in the Kingdom of Dubai, or Abu-Dhabi, or Saudi Arabia. It’s oil money, sucked up out of the ground and spent with abandon by men who have never known what a stale cheese sandwich tastes like with a hangover. But the oil is apparently running out and although the buffet table is still sandwich-free, Middle-Eastern eyes are searching for a new income stream. Something sustainable. Dependable. Something which people don’t even need to leave their homes to enjoy, and pay for. Sport.

The Gulf News reports that Eddie Hearn is in negotiation with ‘parties in the region’ to bring a ‘World Class Event’ there.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have continually been linked to hosting a big boxing event, and Hearn, the managing director of Matchroom Sport, says he gets two to three requests a week from the region. However, he claimed that negotiations have often stalled during monetary negotiations.

Now though, after the success of the ground breaking Groves-Smith fight in Jeddah, other GCC cities might start to reconsider, especially with huge fights like Joshua-Wilder and Khan-Pacquiao on the horizon

“We’ve done darts events in Dubai and we speak to them all the time, that’s ready-made for a major boxing event, as is Abu Dhabi,” he said, on the sidelines of the Groves-Smith fight in Saudi Arabia.”—Gulf News, 30th September, 2018

So, here we are. The enormous wealth of the Gulf States is drawing a serious eye from those most pragmatic of money-getters: the boxing promoter. Groves/Smith was a brilliant fight (World Title fight, too) and Boxing-Wise, it did our sport a lot of credit. To the unfamiliar observer, on that fight alone, boxing is an entertaining and watchable sport. At least, that’s what I thought until the camera panned in on the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia at the fight, half watching, half gazing at his companions, looking bored. Someone (a PR lackey attached to the Promoters, I think) tweeted that the arena was ‘Jumping’ during the early part of the Smith/Groves card. I turned it on to see lots of empty space. The arena was half full of men standing very quietly. Some moved slowly between the rows of seating. Large air conditioning units gaped around the rings of the stalls like the mouths of torture victims. The whole scene resembled an old Peace Process meeting I’d see snapshots of on the News in the early 90’s. Serene-faced men wafting along in a dry heat atmosphere, stepping in or out of expensive cars or hotels. No women. And so it was at the arena. The absence of women, even by a normal boxing crowd standards, was appalling. Then I got to thinking about human rights…

Boxing is, despite the HBO weirdness, on the up. Money is sloshing into the sport even without any oil cash. In the UK alone, the interest in World title fights is at a high not seen since the days of Bruno/Benn/Eubank/Hamed. Good coverage at the Olympics has brought many new fans in to watching the pro ranks. Boxing has some credibility for the first time in years. And now a group of countries that behead women for ‘crimes’ like adultery wants to open their wallets and bring over the sport in a serious way so they can increase both their capital outlay and their image as a region of progression and of the future; an addition to their growing portfolio of sporting blue-ribbon events. Buying in a metaphorical pat on the back from places where women have been allowed to drive for longer than just the past few months. The aim is create a section of the planet for Leisure. Costly, and gleaming, and cool.

Leisure is about what’s in it for us, of course. But it’s a future activity that we can somewhat control and shape ourselves, at least morally, despite the bills and the 9-5 grind and the overdraft. Just choose where your money goes.

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George Groves vs. Callum Smith FULL FIGHT



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  1. Casanovita de Ahome 11:26am, 10/01/2018

    Spence talking stupid shit about “someday”.... he’s ready to fight GGG and Canelo right now! He’s already pounded the shit out of the Charlos in sparring and you can bet your ass on that!

  2. Casanovita de Ahome 09:42am, 10/01/2018

    WBO…WBA…IBF…WBO… times eighteen weight classes….72 different champs….why the fuk not?!

  3. fan 05:37pm, 09/30/2018

    Boxing should ladderable about heads up and money.

  4. Casanovita de Ahome 12:31pm, 09/30/2018

    Munguia should have been fighting this Smith in the first Goddamned place! These eighteen weight classes are all so much horse shit any way! Go back to the original eight…if you’re too Goddamned little to fight Flyweight find something else to do!

  5. Your Name 12:31pm, 09/30/2018

    Another fine article and thread about to be ruined

  6. Pootie Tang 10:54am, 09/30/2018

    Hmm, isn’t Saudi Arabia suppose to be an ally of America and the West but somehow Syria is the enemy? Go figure that one out. “Human rights” getting in the way of sporting events? Didn’t stop the powers that be from holding the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

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