Anthony Joshua has put some fans offside by suggesting that gay people who can’t travel to Saudi Arabia for his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr can simply watch the fight on TV.
The 29-year-old heavyweight will attempt to reclaim his IBF, WBA and WBO titles from Ruiz Jr in Diriyah on December 7 after losing his unified crown in a shock defeat in June.
The decision to hold the bout in the Middle Eastern sovereign state has been met with anger due to the country’s poor human rights record – including the possible death penalty for gay people.
“I feel like in this situation I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, it’s a thing I can’t win for,” Joshua said.
“I feel like I stand in the middle and I feel like boxing is just trying to open up the barriers for people to travel and see it.
“If you can’t come to the country, you can still watch it, you’re still open to support and I appreciate the support from every community.”
His comments were met with criticism, with one fan writing online: “How disgusting is this attitude. He should cancel the fight.”
Amnesty International slammed the decision to hold the fight in Saudi Arabia, accusing the regime of “sportswashing” – defined as using a sporting event to boost its reputation overseas.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn lashed out at critics last week, saying: “This is boxing. No-one has the right to tell a fighter they can’t take an opportunity in a sport like this.
“Every country has problems. We understand that. We’re interested in the boxing and what this can do for boxing worldwide.”
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