By: Sean Crose
“It feels good,” said WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia for his December 7th rematch against former undefeated divisional kingpin Anthony Joshua. “You know I made history in New York and I’ll make history again in Saudi Arabia.” Ruiz shocked the fight world last June when he stopped Joshua in the Englishman’s American debut at Madison Square Garden. What was essentially supposed to be a glorified tuneup for Joshua on the road to a mega fight with Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury ended up being one of the sport’s biggest upsets in decades.
According to Matchroom Boxing, which is promoting Ruiz-Joshua 2: “The Mexican-American fighter followed his challenger Anthony Joshua into the Kingdom, touching down at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh in the early hours of today to set up his own training camp to prepare for the epic bout on December 7.” This will only be the second of the 22-1 Joshua’s fights to take place out of his United Kingdom homeland. Ruiz, on the other hand, has fought in places as diverse as the United States, Mexico, China, and New Zealand. Although reportedly hesitant at first to fight in Saudi Arabia, the defending champion is expected to receive a warm welcome.
In fact, a brand new outdoor arena has been built specially for the occasion of the rematch. Per Matchroom: “The first-ever Heavyweight World Title fight to take place in the Middle East will be staged in the custom-built 15,000 seat Diriyah Arena in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the home of heroes and kings.” Promoter Eddie Hearn is (unsurprisingly) coming across as thrilled with the new facility. “The arena and site are utterly breath-taking,” he said, “with a theme park and concert the night before (the fight) as well. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before in boxing. The Clash On The Dunes will be a night to remember. We can’t wait.”
Although this will be the first major boxing match to go down in Saudi Arabia, officials clearly feel like the Kingdom is rising to the occasion. “On the night (of the fight),” Matchroom claimed, “more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down.”
Joshua-Ruiz 2, the “Clash On The Dunes,” will be aired live on the DAZN streaming service.