7 unusual boxing venues ahead of Anthony Joshua bout in Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua’s rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia on Saturday marks the first time the world heavyweight boxing championship has been contested in the Middle East.

Here the PA news agency recalls some of the other unlikely venues the so-called ‘richest prize in sport’ has spotlighted since it entered its recognised modern era at the start of the 20th century.

Shelby, Mt: Jack Dempsey V Tommy Gibbons (1923)

A bunch of optimistic oil speculators brought Dempsey’s defence against Gibbons to remote Shelby, Montana. It proved such an economic disaster that the town was rendered effectively bankrupt.

Anthony Joshua will fight at the Diriyah Arena
Anthony Joshua will fight at the Diriyah Arena (Diriyah Season/PA)

Havana: Jack Johnson V Jess Willard (1915)

Threatened with arrest in the United States, champion Johnson had little option but to take his title on the road. When a prospective bout in Mexico fell through, he instead fought – and lost to – Willard in front of 20,000 fans in the Cuban capital.

Caracas: George Foreman V Ken Norton (1974)

George Foreman knocked out Ken Norton to retain his world titles in Caracas. Following the bout, Foreman was forced to remain in Venezuela for five days after the country’s government retrospectively attempted to apply tax to his fight purse.

Kinshasa: Muhammad Ali V George Foreman (1974)

Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko worked with Don King to take the world heavyweight title to Africa, and what would become immortalised as ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’.

Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (left to right) were involved in some high-profile bouts
Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman (left to right) were involved in some high-profile bouts during their careers (PA)

Manila: Muhammad Ali V Joe Frazier (1975)

Conceived by Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos, the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ between Ali and Frazier is widely considered one of the most brutal heavyweight title bouts in history.

Auckland: Joseph Parker V Andy Ruiz Jr (2016)

Ruiz had to head to the New Zealand capital for his first shot at the title, losing a majority decision to Joseph Parker in the first world heavyweight title bout in the country. Parker also made his first defence over Razvan Cojanu.

Grozny: Ruslan Chagaev V Lucas Browne (2016)

Ruslan Chagaev’s WBA title defence against Australian Lucas Browne took place in the Chechen capital. “I was bit apprehensive at first, but I’ve been treated like a movie star,” said Browne. Browne won the bout, but was then stripped for failing a drugs test.

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