From heavyweight boxing to Formula One – sports that have headed to Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia last year
Anthony Joshua defeated Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia last year (PA Archive)
18:58pm, Thu 05 Nov 2020
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Formula One has confirmed the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix will take place next year.

The grand prix – a night race on the streets of Jeddah – joins a growing list of international contests to be staged by the Middle East kingdom, which continues to attract criticism for its human rights record.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at other sporting events held in the country.


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Britain’s Anthony Joshua reclaimed his heavyweight world titles by defeating Andy Ruiz Jr in the so-called ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Riyadh last December. The hotly-anticipated rematch followed Amir Khan’s WBC international welterweight victory over Australian Billy Dib in Jeddah in 2019.


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The last two Italian Super Cup finals have been held in Saudi Arabia. Juventus – thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo goal – beat AC Milan in Jeddah in January 2019, before they lost 3-1 to Lazio in Riyadh later that year. In January, Real Madrid claimed the Spanish Super Cup in Jeddah at the end of a four-club tournament also featuring Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.


Established in 2019, the Saudi International became the first European Tour event to be played in the country. Rory McIlroy ruled out competing at this year’s tournament, confirming there was “a morality” behind his decision. Fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell went on to win the event, following in the footsteps of inaugural winner Dustin Johnson.

Horse racing

The world’s richest horse race was held in Saudi Arabia in February. The 20million US Dollars (£15.2million) Saudi Cup was run over nine furlongs on dirt at the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh. US-trained Maximum Security, the 6-5 favourite ridden by Luis Saez, was victorious.


Heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury headed to Saudi Arabia to make his WWE debut at the ‘Crown Jewel’ event during October 2019. The British fighter backed up his trash talk hype by flooring Braun Strowman with a big right hand to ‘win’ by count-out at the King Saud University Stadium.


The 2020 edition of the Dakar Rally was held in Saudi Arabia. Manx motorcyclist Jamie McCanney finished 15th overall and the best placed British rider. The race debutant crossed the desert in 43 hours 45 minutes, just under four hours behind American winner Ricky Brabec. Saudi Arabia is also set to host the 2021 event.


October 2020 was scheduled to see Saudi Arabia host a ranking event for the first time, under a 10-year partnership deal with World Snooker. The inaugural Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters in Riyadh – which was set to have a total fund of £2.5million, including a top prize of £500,000 – has been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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