The honor is usually reserved for a fighter ruling their weight class by brute force, offering a larger-than-life personality and talent that seems limitless.

No longer, according to Teddy Atlas.

The new face of boxing is a man behind sunglasses who isn’t prone to interviews and doesn’t even fight.

By staging both the undisputed heavyweight championship and undisputed light-heavyweight title in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, within a two-week span starting May 18, Saudi Arabia’s Turki Alalshikh has risen to become the most significant man in the sport, Atlas claimed on Tuesday’s episode of ProBox TV’s “Deep Waters.”

“If you’re going to get down to the reality of it, is [undisputed super-middleweight champion and four-division champion] Canelo [Alvarez] the face of boxing? Is [heavyweight champion Tyson] Fury the face of boxing? No,” Atlas said. “Turki Alalshikh is the face of boxing because he’s making all these cards possible.”

Tasked with making Riyadh a global destination as minister and chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, Alalshikh has lavished boxing with weighty sums of financial support, magically breaking down the walls that previously limited the cooperation between promoters like England’s Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren to create a steady flow of major bouts from the oil-rich nation.

In addition to the May 18 Fury-Oleksandr Usyk winner becoming the first undisputed heavyweight champion of this century, the June 1 light-heavyweight main event between unbeaten Russian champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol tops a deep undercard of fighters linked to Hearn and Warren.

The “5 versus 5 tournament” under Beterbiev-Bivol offers a slate featuring former heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder vs. China’s Zhilei Zhang, top-10 heavyweights Filip Hrgovic vs. Daniel Dubois, WBA super-featherweight champion Raymond Ford vs. Nick Ball, middleweights Hamzah Sheeraz vs. Austin “Ammo” Williams and British light-heavyweights Craig Richards vs. Willy Hutchinson.

Atlas spoke of recently watching Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs) rally to gain a draw against WBC champion Rey Vargas six days after Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs) stopped Otabek Kholmatov with seven seconds remaining while down on the scorecards.

“You’ve got to have the matches that will make the people satisfied and spit fire … Ford-Ball … I’m just going to pick one,” Atlas said. “It’s like being in a candy store here.”

Before that transpires, Atlas praised Alalshikh for rightfully sensing that what boxing needs to regain its popularity and emerge from niche sport is an undisputed heavyweight champion.

“When’s the last time we had one ‘baddest man on the planet?’” Atlas asked. “It’s been a long time, but we’re about to get one with Fury-Usyk in Saudi Arabia.

“That [event] is all you need to know that it’s not a niche sport. It’s emanating from Saudi Arabia and [streams] everywhere. That takes the sport worldwide and when the heavyweights are known, everyone in the world is once again connected to boxing.”

The May 18 outcome is “going to spread its wealth. The invaluable worth of what is being done in Saudi Arabia – the pot of gold that goes with that – will spread throughout the industry.

“The sport is healthy again. The sport is relevant again. That’s the most important point, because there was a point not too long ago where it was niche.”

Read the full article here