Monday, July 15

Saudi Arabia’s Next Billion-Dollar Sports Play: The Boxing Takeover

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Each class would include approximately 15 fighters each, allowing top talent to compete on a regular basis. The move would effectively create a single boxing entity that would replace the sometimes chaotic and frustrating system of warring fight promoters and sanctioning bodies. The new entity would have the resources and fighters to stage high-profile bouts around the world.

And unlike many of the sports Saudi Arabia has previously attempted to revolutionize, professional boxing may be ripe for a reinvention. The sport has lost some of its luster and glamour in recent decades and is now run by a tangled web of rival promoters and disparate sanctioning bodies that stage their own fights and award their own titles. That leaves fans to sift through a confusing system that often hinders matches between top fighters and one that boasts multiple “champions” in the same weight classes.

The new series would operate under a single brand, an arrangement similar to the business model of the wildly popular Ultimate Fighting Championship, which has steadily eroded boxing’s global popularity. In the UFC, 15 fighters are ranked in leagues by weight division, as well as a pound-for-pound ranking of the top fighters. In the Saudi-backed event, fighters could rise in the rankings but could also be dropped from the series and replaced by new talent.

The project has been under discussion for more than a year, the news was first reported by Reuters on Tuesday evening. It was developed with the help of several consulting firms, including Boston Consulting Group, which has helped PIF on several projects. If an investment decision is confirmed in the coming weeks, the series could begin as early as the first half of next year, according to one of the people involved in the planning.

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