Britain’s George Groves and Callum Smith are concerned fans may struggle to attend their World Boxing Super Series final in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
The pair meet in the tournament final on 28 September, with Groves’ WBA world super-middleweight title on the line.
Fans attending will require visas to enter the country, which still upholds controversial laws on women’s rights.
Groves says his wife may not attend, while Smith said it is a “shame” many British fans will not get to go.
“It isn’t ideal, especially for a big domestic fight,” said Smith, 28. “British fans should have a chance to go and see it. I would probably be able to count on one hand how many are in the venue.”
Groves doubts wife’s attendance
The Middle East country hosted a World Wrestling Entertainment event for the first time in 2018 and men and women were allowed to attend, although no female wrestlers were allowed to compete.
Saudi Arabia only lifted a ban on women driving earlier this year. Women must adhere to a strict dress code, be separated from unrelated men, and be accompanied by or receive written permission from a male guardian – usually a father, husband or brother – if they want to travel, work or access healthcare.
Groves, 30, is unsure if wife Sophie may miss his bout for just the second time in his career and expects it to be “difficult” for fans generally.
“She’s coming if she wants,” he said. “I’m not sure. She’s only ever missed one fight – that was in Brentwood and she got stuck in traffic. She likes to pretend it didn’t happen but it took her five hours to get there.
“That’s the only one she’s ever missed, she’s the best fan I’ve ever had. She was there at York Hall on a non-TV show for my second fight.
“There will be a few regular faces who won’t be able to make it and that will be disappointing, but ultimately I just want to get on with business.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says those wishing to travel should use visa agencies accredited to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Many providers quote the visa cost at £130, but figures can more than double when processing fees are added.
Promoter Kalle Sauerland has overseen the inaugural World Boxing Super Series.
He said the bout was “historical” because Saudi Arabia has “never seen boxing before at this level” and expects access to be “problem free” for those who wish to attend.
“It will be the first time in this region that such an event will take place,” said Sauerland.
“One day Groves and Smith will be able to tell their children and grandchildren that they were the first to fight in this region.”
Smith will put his unbeaten record on the line when the pair meet at the 10,000-capacity Indoor Sports Hall at King Abdullah Sports City, while champion Groves has 28 wins from 31 bouts.