Amer Abdallah was right, the Saudi takeover is here

The Saudis are coming to take over boxing.

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund is in discussions with at least two major promoters to create a league, potentially leading to the sport rivaling UFC's business model.

The goal of the PIF is to purchase every significant boxing promotion to ensure the best fight the best. That sounds like a common sense approach, but one of boxing's biggest criticisms over the last few decades is that there are too many powerbrokers. Both sides often quarrel, and deals are either not made or fall apart entirely. The business people behind the deals never lose, but the fans of the sport are always left behind.

According to one source reporting exclusively to, Matchroom Boxing, led by Eddie Hearn, and Golden Boy Promotions, headed by Oscar De La Hoya, are involved in the discussions that could result in a deal valuing the new entity at approximately $7 billion.

Amer Abdallah, head of boxing operations for Saudi Arabian promoter Skill Challenge Entertainment, recently spoke to regarding the explosive growth of boxing in the Kingdom.

"The General Entertainment Authority, led by His Excellency Turki al-Sheikh, they're putting on events that every boxing fan, promoter, fighter, dreams of making. He's just been removing all the politics from it and making that happen."

Abdallah, a world champion kickboxer, also runs his own promotional company, Lace Up Promotions. He hinted that boxing would continue to grow in the Middle East, but perhaps not at unprecedented levels.

"The United Arab Emirates has been doing boxing, too. We actually did the very first professional kickboxing event in 2019. Badou Jack Promotions launched that fight in Dubai. Abu Dhabi is starting to do boxing now. Hopefully, we start boxing in the Middle East as a whole. It's growing."

The PIF is the same organization that split golf by founding its own tour. Now, they want to duplicate the process in the boxing world. The aforementioned Turki al-Sheikh, a close advisor to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has been overseeing the final discussions around a potential deal for at least the past month. If their initial venture is successful, al-Sheikh will likely aim at the last remaining promotions, including Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions and Top Rank.

When asked if he felt the United States was beginning to lose its leverage on the boxing scene, Abdallah disagreed, stating that the emergence of boxing in the Middle East "only adds to the sport as a whole and doesn't take anything away from the fights in the U.S."

"These fights that are happening in Saudi can't be done anywhere else. Nobody else has been able to do them for political reasons, network reasons, contractual issues, and all the promoters, I believe, are welcoming with open arms to allow this kind of a movement to happen and make these fights."

A Saudi takeover has been in the works for years. If you've been paying any attention, major fights began to move to the Kingdom in 2018. George Groves and Callum Smith clashed for the World Boxing Super Series championship and the WBA super middleweight titles at the Sports City.

At the time, promoter Kalle Sauerland hinted that Saudi Arabia could be the destination of most major bouts in the future.

"This could be the start of something big down there," he stated. "There's not a promoter on this planet of any meaning who hasn't traveled down to that region to try to put on boxing."

Anthony Joshua has fought in the Kingdom in four of his last eight fights, including his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, who defeated Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia on May 18 to become the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Abdallah also said he expected the movement to expand globally, not just in Saudi Arabia. His statement occurred before the announcement that Riyadh Season would hold the first boxing event outside the Kingdom when Terence Crawford challenges Israil Madrimov for the WBA junior middleweight world title at Los Angeles' BMO Stadium on August 3.

We asked Abdallah if the movement's goal was to bring boxing back to its glory days and rival the UFC's simpler approach to business.

"That's a great question," he stated as he smiled. "This is exactly what needs to happen. What Dana White and the UFC have done with their company in such a short time has been unbelievable. But what they've shown is this is what the politics of the sport have done. The politics ruin it.

"The politics of having so many different promoters, networks, and sanctioning bodies prevent the big fights from happening. That's the way it has been. It's going to be difficult to dilute that and turn it into the UFC-type model. His Excellency Turki al-Sheikh said it himself: he wants boxing to go back to the time when everyone knew who the fighters were: Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis. Everyone knew these guys.

"Boxing does need to get back to that. I still believe boxing is the most exciting combat sport. And I think this is exactly what needs to happen and I do believe that this can absolutely bring boxing back to its heyday."

Abdallah's prophecy appears to be coming true before our very eyes.

Share this story

must see