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The mega-fight between Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury on May 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was one of the most important events in the world of boxing. It was also full of fanfare. Before the fight, there was a musical performance by American rapper JID. Following that, the audience was impressed by the visually striking ring walks of the two leading men. In the end, after 25 years, the event gave the world an undisputed world heavyweight champion in Oleksandr Usyk. It was an exciting day for the viewers with 8 exciting undercard fights preceding the main event. With Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk, Saudi Arabia set the bar for how a good boxing event should be.

At the forefront of this event was the man who put it all together, the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, His Excellency Turki Alalshikh. He took the lead in conceiving and executing the massive boxing showdown. If a new report is to be believed, despite all the pageantry and show, the significance of the event could not translate itself into monetary profits as many expected it to when the night ended. Why?

Saudi Arabia went all out for the undisputed 

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The fight was a major cultural and historical success that drew millions of spectators from all over the world. However, it fell short financially. According to a report by ESPN, the bout attracted an astounding 1.5 million-plus PPV buys, bringing in a whopping $50 million plus in PPV income. If you simply consider the number of PPV buys, the event’s success is noteworthy since most boxing events find it hard to even break the 1 million buy mark. However, that is only half the story. The landmark event also generated an additional $40 million in sponsorship revenue and about $3 million in ticket sales at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh. This means that the event brought in around $93 million in total revenue for the Kingdom. For all other events, this would have been a respectable fortune. But this wasn’t any other event.

The same report also reveals the cost it took to put it all together. Factoring in the event production, fighter’s purses, entertainment, travel, and other expenses, the event’s total cost reached a staggering $120 million approximately. If the figures provided in the report are to be believed, this means the event failed to break even. Even though $93 million is an incredible sum of money for a boxing match, the overall return on investment the event saw was negligible. In fact, the Kingdom’s investment left them roughly $27 million in deficit.

Even though it was such a grand sight, the event did not generate as much revenue as it should have. At the end of the day, the cost of its production was just too high to guarantee a sizeable profit. Despite Saudi Arabia’s best efforts and all of its resources, it ultimately turned out to be financially underwhelming. However, there was another important reason why the event didn’t see a major chunk of its revenue.

Oleksandr Usyk vs. Tyson Fury II: A rematch or a revamp?

Despite so much buzz surrounding the event, the loss exceeds way over $27 million. If we consider the total revenue the event lost out on, the losses stack up way over $120 million. How? One answer – Illegal streaming. As per a report published in Daily Mail, the Fury vs. Usyk fight was illegally streamed by around 20 million people worldwide. As people didn’t buy the PPV from legitimate broadcasters like Sky Sports, TNT Sport, and DAZN, who owned the rights for the event, the loss of income they incurred was a staggering £95 million or $120 million. The high cost of the pay-per-view and technical glitches with broadcasters’ streaming services are likely reasons why many viewers turned to illegal streams for the fight.

Despite the significant loss, there is still hope that things will turn around. His Excellency Turki Alalshikh has a firm belief in his vision and his country has garnered the attention of the entire world by organizing spectacular sporting events. While talking to ESPN, His Excellency stated, “We are committed to the long-term success of this industry, prepared to navigate challenges as we work towards our goal.”

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It is a prevailing thought that the sport of boxing is a dying ship. But HE Turki Alalshikh believes, “There is a big opportunity in boxing. But you must improve the market. You must fix all the problems.” This is very true, especially considering the loss of revenue that illegal streams and high pay-per-view prices pose.

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Saudi Arabia will host another significant boxing event at the end of this year. Fury and Usyk are set to meet again in Riyadh on December 21st for their rematch. There is still time to evaluate what can be changed from the first contest and attempt to make the rematch lucrative for all parties concerned.

With HE Turki Alalshik at the helm, the success of the rematch will not only be a victory for Saudi Arabia, but it will also benefit the sport of boxing as a whole. One can only hope that the rematch ends up being an even bigger success than the first one.