The Zaire’s “Rumble in the Jungle” lives Africa in our memory forever.
Till date, it ranks one of the biggest boxing shows after the “Thriller in Manila” in the US, the traditional theatre of the game.
Boxing is money-spinning as it does not only pays the gladiators in the ring but also opens great opportunity for tourism and hospitality.
Apart from Zaire that invested in bringing Mohammad Ali and George Foreman to Africa, it took almost 40 years for South Africa to stage Lennox Lewis and Hashim Rahman in a match witnessed by Nelson Mandela himself.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t produce boxing talents but then the government is steadily looking at the business and tourism angle by staging some heavyweight bouts.
Anthony Joshua/Andy Ruiz Jr, opened the door of Riyadh a few years ago but the recent clash of the UFC former champion, Francis Ngannou and WBC heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury showed how determined Saudi is to make the Middle East the new theatre of boxing.
Fury/Ngannou was a collison of MMA and boxing fans, including wrestlers and their promoters.
It brought sports legends and stars together. Perhaps the first in recent years that Cristian Ronaldo was meeting wrestling legend, Undertaker and his WWF boss, Vince McMahon to see a fight together.
Ngannou/Fury parades former such celebrities as Tommy Fury, John Fury, Teddy Atlas, former boxing champions as Riddick Bowe, Buster Douglas, Shannon Briggs, Antonio Tarver, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, Oleksandr Usyk, Oscar Se La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr, Prince Naseem Hamed, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran
On the list of celebrities are Randy Couture, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lil Baby, Becky G, Vince McMahon, The Undertaker, Chuck Liddell, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton, Amir Khan,Junior dos Santos, Miguel Cotto, Dmitry Bivol and
The list also have footballers; Cristiano Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Aymeric Laporte, Luis Figo, Ronaldo Nazario,Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Allan Saint-Maximin, Franck Kessie.
It also includes singers like Lil Baby, Becky G, Eminem, Kanye West and MMA champions, Conor McGregor,
Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman.
With these celebrities in Saudi Arabia for a match, there is no doubt that the country is doing something right to change boxing narrative, which for me Nigeria should also look into in the nearest future.
It may not be for boxing anyway.