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Mick Hennessy Exclusive: Savannah Marshall asked to cover up in Saudi, but show was tremendous

Mick Hennessy chats to Umbreen Khan about all things Saudi boxing and reveals details of his own next show

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I recently got a chance to catch up with longtime promoter Mick Hennessy, who graciously afforded me a rare interview. Here are some of the highlights, including his thought on Andy Ruiz vs Anthony Joshua 2 and the future for his own television shows.


Following the announcement that the Joshua Ruiz rematch will be held in Saudi Arabia, obviously there is a lot of money to be made there, do you think more boxers will want to fight abroad?

Definitely, for sure. I was in Saudi Arabia recently for the Amir Khan fight and for Hughie Fury fighting over there and to be fair it was a great experience. It was different, it was a unique show, it was very different in boxing terms, you know it was great to be a part of that. Fair play to Bill Dosanjh and the team that put that fight on because it had a bit of everything: showbusiness, entertainment, fighting, it was great and obviously, you know they’re pulling up the right budgets to get the right showbusiness over there so I think it’s going to happen more and more, for sure.


Do you think the fans will be willing to travel to places like Saudi Arabia? Obviously the culture is very different.

We were told of all sorts of things, I had to watch this, watch that and to be fair we never experienced it. It was quite a warm welcome and the food was excellent, you know if we were out of the air-conditioned cars or the air-conditioned hotel for too long the heat would catch up with you, but everywhere is so well air-conditioned out there so I think people will travel. I think they’re making it a lot easier around visas and things like that whereby you get a visa if you purchase a ticket. I know places like Dubai have obviously been on this for a long time, I know places like Bahrain and places like that are considering it. You know, once something’s started and let’s face it you’ve got the AJ-Ruiz fight gone there. If Pacquiao versus Khan goes there, that’s going to be two of the biggest fights in many a year. That would really establish it as one of the main capitals of boxing worldwide.


What are the fans like over there? Do they build the same atmosphere as over here?

It was very passionate, my son [Michael Hennessy Jr] boxed on the card as well in a four-round fight and they had a thing out there: Jeddah Sharks and Jeddah Tigers, they do something like the cricket where they all wear the same tracksuits and my son fought for the Jeddah Sharks out there and wore their tracksuit and it just built up an incredible atmosphere. The fans were going crazy, even for the undercard bouts, it was electric, the atmosphere and then you had Rick Ross playing there and you had Tyga playing there.


They seem to have made it more of an all round entertainment event rather than just a boxing match.

That’s exactly what it was, it was fascinating to be fair. I really enjoyed the experience and anywhere like that that’s going to be hosting shows of that nature, I would love to be a part of.


Do you have any shows soon?

I’m putting a show together, it will be September 28 and that’s Alex Dilmaghani, he’s going to be fighting an excellent Nicaraguan called Francisco Fonseca for the WBA International title, that’s going to be on Channel 5. We’re just putting that together at the moment.


Do you think in the future at any point you would consider putting on a show in another country?


I’d love to, I played a part in the last one, I weren’t the on-ground promoter but I put the Hughie Fury fight together. My son went on there and I brought the British TV to the table, Channel 5, so I had a part in the last one, but I wasn’t the main promoter and I enjoyed that experience so yeah, I would like to get even more involved.


Does it take much longer to put together a show in another country?

Yeh, I think Bill Dosanjh and his team were working out there for six months on that show and it showed. It was tremendous.


Is that because it was one of the first big-name fights out there?

I think it was the second one because obviously you had the Callum Smith v George Groves fight out there for the World Boxing Super Series so that was the second fight out there so you know, two quality shows like that back to back and now AJ-Ruiz confirmed and obviously there’s still talk of Khan-Pacquiao. So great experience, it was good business to go out there and a lot of us were dreading going out there because we was hearing all sorts of rumours, got to watch what you eat, got to watch this got to watch that.


Was it all quite relaxed once you got there?

Yeah, very. It was very hospitable, the people were great, it was really nice.


Were there any rules and regulations over there because of the culture that restricted things?

Savannah Marshall came out there with us, it was only once where because she’s an athlete and it’s hot and she was training, it was only once where they said ‘Could you wear something to cover up?’ or something, but it was very, very polite and very respectful.


How did she react?

She was great with it, it was a new experience for her. She respected other peoples’ ways and their culture and as they say, ‘When in Rome…’ You adjust, don’t you?


If she were to box over there, would that be a problem do you think?

I’m hearing that it’s going to change over there, they are going to allow it at some point. I think that’s the whole point of bringing big sport and entertainment there because I think the current government are trying to relax the laws for everyone concerned and especially the people living there to make things hopeful and nicer to live.

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