By: Sean Crose
Strangely enough, neither man was there. In a press conference to officially announce the highly anticipated rematch between former heavyweight kingpin Anthony Joshua, and the man who stunned the world by besting him, Andy Ruiz, promoter Eddie Hearn did his best to hype the impending bout. With neither Joshua or Ruiz present, however, it proved to be an off seeming affair. Ruiz-Joshua 2 is scheduled to go down on December 7th in Saudi Arabia, though word is making the rounds that Ruiz is unhappy with the arrangement. Still, Hearn spoke in detail about the Saudi Arabia location for the match.
“For us,” said Hearn, “we really wanted to go somewhere where they believed in the sport of boxing and they had a vision.” The promoter went on to praise Saudi Arabia as a qualified host country. “I was lucky enough to attend the World Boxing Super Series,” Hearn continued. “It was a fantastic event, not just for the logistical setup but because of the vibrancy of the crowd, the interest in the sport of boxing. And of course, recently they staged another fight with Amir Khan.”
Ruiz shocked not only the boxing world, but the entire sports world when he essentially beat up Joshua last June in Joshua’s American debut. The Madison Square Garden hosted bout was supposed to be Joshua’s introduction to the American public. Ruiz was essentially a last minute replacement opponent for Joshua after Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller had to drop out due to positive drug tests. In other words, not much was expected of the Mexican-American slugger. To claim Ruiz over-performed would be an overstatement. The heavyset challenger dropped Joshua numerous times before the bout was finally stopped in round seven.
Although he was stunned and thoroughly beaten, Joshua took the loss like a gentleman. The now 22-1 Englishman has also proven ready to redeem himself since the loss. With a rematch clause in place, it was essentially only a matter of where and when Joshua would face the now 33-1 Ruiz again. With a date and location set, Hearn was effusive Monday about the fight being scheduled in a unique location. Ever the salesman, the smooth promoter claimed that “this event can change boxing forever…You could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport.” Hearn added that “with curiosity, the whole world will be watching this fight.”
While the fact that Ruiz-Joshua 2 is scheduled to go down in the middle east is now unarguably a major part of the story, it also brings with it a degree of controversy, something the media is already beginning to take note of. Saudi Arabia is widely seen as a nation ripe with human rights abuses, something that will no doubt continue to be noted as the countdown for the match begins. Whether the country’s reputation will keep fans from embracing Ruiz-Joshua 2 remains to be seen.