Battle of the Baddest: A ringside view of Riyadh Season's opening night event

Battle of the Baddest: A ringside view of Riyadh Season's opening night event

Georgios Grigoriadis, a Riyadh-based media strategist, recounts his experience at the Riyadh Season opener, Battle of the Baddest
15 November 23
Battle of the Baddest Riyadh Season 2023

The inaugural event of Riyadh Season 2023, the Battle of the Baddest took place at the brand-new Kingdom Arena on October 28.

The title fight took place in the Kingdom Arena with an impressive capacity for 26,000 onlookers, whilst the under-card fights took place in the nearby Boulevard Hall hosting an additional number of spectators.

It was during this opening sporting event, the world watched on as the World Boxing Championship Heavyweight champion of the world, the unbeaten Tyson Fury took on the skilled, mixed martial arts expert, Francis Ngannou.

Retaining his title of undefeated champion, Fury was declared winner In a split decision by judges. And so, Fury took home the Battle of the Baddest belt, whilst his opponent Francis Ngannou held up a good fight in the athlete's first foray outside of MMA. The anticipated showdown lasted the entire ten rounds.

Georgios Grigoriadis, a Riyadh-based media strategist, recounts his experience at the Riyadh Season opener, Battle of the Baddest:

So, tell us: Do you usually attend boxing matches? What was different about this one?

No, in fact, this was my first real boxing match. I did attend a UFC fight once in Abu Dhabi, but this is as far as my experience goes. With Battle of the Baddest, I was actually unsure of what to expect, but I had a hunch it would be a star-studded spectacle, given that this was also the Riyadh Season launch event – and I was definitely not disappointed.

How would you describe the venue and overall mood?

First of all, the venue was phenomenal. It was spacious and spectacular in every way – there was this electrifying air to it. The undercard fights took place on a different stage and filled up very quickly, which meant we didn’t get lucky enough to watch any of the bouts. However, this was a minor setback in an otherwise remarkable experience. The excellent setting and well-organised event ensured that the overall experience will certainly be remembered and retold. I was particularly impressed by the shows and performances before the fight, which set the scene for the main spectacle later.

Were there any standout moments for you? Any noteworthy pre-fight rituals or grand entrances?

Looking back, I’d say the most memorable thing for me, aside from the fight itself, was the opportunity to see so many celebrities and international culture, sports, and entertainment icons in one place. You look to the left and see McGregor, and then a couple of minutes later, Figo or Ronaldo casually walks by – and being among such a rolling cast of famous faces was an exciting first for me. I also must highlight the thrill of the fight itself, as it was full of emotions, the gripping kind of event where nobody knows who comes out on top until the final bell.

What were the fighters like? Was there anything unique about their skills or how they interacted with the crowd, for instance?

When it came to the fighters’ strategies, I believe Ngannou was the hero of the night. In his first ever professional boxing match, he arguably outfought and outthought the world’s best boxer of our generation. And this was further demonstrated by the split decision from the referees. For me, Fury’s performance left much to be desired. I have to say, though, his showmanship really left an impression on me, as he strutted out to the fight to the strains of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman – a moment to remember.

Were there any post-fight interviews or ceremonies?

Yes, the highlight for me was Oleksandr Usyk [the world heavyweight boxing champion in an alternative federation] coming up to Fury. This gave us all the hope that the biggest fight in modern boxing history might happen much sooner than we thought. It was also teased that the Usyk-Fury bout would take place in Riyadh, which got me excited by the possibility of being able to witness boxing history firsthand.

Beyond the ring, what else stood out about this experience?

Michael Buffer’s announcement before the fight was spectacular. I’ve always wanted to hear his signature “Let’s get ready to rumble!” bellowed out live, and it was definitely worth it.

Was there any particular moment that left an impression on the crowd?

It was inspiring to see the way the Cameroonian French former UFC heavyweight champion changed people’s perspectives throughout the fight. From being the complete underdog to losing by a narrow margin, it was truly a Rocky Balboa type of story.

How do you think this boxing match fits into the broader landscape of the sport?

I believe this match will send shockwaves rippling across the wider boxing community, resulting in more cross-disciplinary competitions – boxers fighting in the UFC, for instance. For Ngannou, it opens boxing as a future career path, with the next fights already in discussion with Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua. For Fury, his legacy is facing unprecedented scrutiny right now, as his claim to the title of GOAT has never appeared so uncertain.

Describe your experience in one word.