Former heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will be hoping to regain his titles as he takes on Andy Ruiz Jr in the biggest heavyweight rematch in nearly two decades.

The two boxers face off in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, six months after Ruiz stunned Joshua with a seventh round defeat in New York, despite the Mexican American being a 15-1 underdog with some bookies. The significance of the contest is enormous for both fighters, and whether it is a repeat or revenge, the number of viewers are anticipated to be suitably huge.

The fight will be broadcast on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK at a cost of £24.95, and through DAZN in the US for $19.99. However fans unable or unwilling to pay for the spectacle are expected to seek out free alternatives.

Illegal live streams have become increasingly easy to find in recent years, with hundreds of links shared online across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and dedicated Reddit forums in the build up to major sporting events.

Websites hosting pirated content also rank highly in online searches for big fights, with some piracy experts claiming it has never been easier to find illegal streams online.

The proliferation of devices like Kodi boxes and IPTV sticks have added to the issue, but it is the arrival of smartphone and tablet apps that let users watch free live streams of boxing bouts like this weekend’s showdown between Joshua and Ruiz. 

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Wayne Lonstein, CEO of anti-priacy firm VFT Solutions, has tracked this trend as part of his firm’s research into nano-piracy, whereby pirated streams spread at a near-uncontrollable rate across the internet.

“One trip to the App Store will show you over 100 apps capable of taking a stream be it legal or illegal and re-broadcasting it instantly globally,” Mr Lonstein told The Independent.

“Streamers range from seeking social popularity to actually monetizing piracy. Viewers find it simple – no need to register or be tech savvy to use and feel invisible.”

Illegal live streams of the Clash On The Dunes in Saudi Arabia could reach record levels (Getty Images)

One of the ways rights holders can combat the scourge, according to Mr Lonstein, is to make the price of watching live events less prohibitive. 

“Wise companies are using models where pricing makes it not worth the risk,” he said.

Earlier this year, BT Sports made the bold decision to broadcast both the Champion’s League and Europa League finals for free on YouTube, in a move that was described as a “major blow” for online pirates.

Anthony Joshua has racked up nearly 10 million pay-per-view buys throughout his career so far, but illegal viewers are estimated to considerably outstrip this.



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