The world of boxing is keenly awaiting the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. The former is seeking revenge after suffering a shock defeat at the hands of Ruiz Jr on June 1 at Madison Square Garden. Not only did the British boxer go down, he actually suffered a technical knockout in the seventh round.
But while both boxers prepare to make a point – Ruiz that his win wasn't a fluke and Joshua that he is still at the top – a side issue had been bothering the organisers. Since the fight is going to take place in the ultra-orthodox Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, town of Diriyah to be precise, there were concerns about the practice of having ring-girls present during the match.
Since women in Saudi Arabia are restricted by official laws in terms of what they can wear, the tradition of having, often skimpily-clad, women in the ring carrying placards with names of the boxers or number of the round about to take place, was unlikely to be accepted. Now, the authorities have made it official that there will be no ring girls present on the occasion.
The official line maintained by the organisers is that the decision has been made while keeping in mind the culture of the country. However, it is very likely that the host country might also have dropped a hint or two about their unhappiness over this custom of boxing matches.
Initially, the favoured venue for the fight was Cardiff in Wales, UK. But the Saudi kingdom, which has been trying to get an image makeover, stepped in and got the match scheduled on its soil.
The government of Saudi Arabia has also been courting professional wrestling's biggest brand WWE and has signed a deal that has led to several special events of the wrestling promotion taking place in the middle-eastern kingdom.
In the last such event – Crown Jewel – there was a women's match for the first-time ever on Saudi Arabian soil. The two wrestlers that took part in that one-on-one contest – Natalya and Lacey Evans – were full-body clothing but no hijab. This was regarded as a big step forward for the nation which has faced severe criticism over the years for its regressive laws.