By: Sean Crose
“There’s Las Vegas,” Matchroom Boxing honcho Eddie Hearn said on Wednesday. “There’s New York. There’s London. No. There’s a whole world out there. And now there’s Saudi Arabia for boxing. This is such a monumental opportunity for our sport.” Hearn was speaking at a table that stood before a unique looking (at least to western boxing fans) sand colored stone wall. On either side of him was WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight champion of the world, Andy Ruiz Jr, and the man who Ruiz won those titles from last June, Anthony Joshua. These men were in Saudi Arabia, gathered, of course, to announce Ruiz-Joshua 2, the unexpected fight of the year, which will go down live at a specially designed Saudi stadium on December 7th.
“I never thought I’d be fighting outside of London or outside of America,” said Joshua, “so its a blessing and I’m happy to be here.” Always the good sport, Joshua claimed that “Andy’s champion right now,” but added “that will last until December the seventh.” Joshua spoke pleasantly enough, but there was an intensity his eyes during the event that was hard not to notice. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “We’re going to have a really good night of boxing, and that’s what we’re here for.” Ruiz may not have much in common with the man he won his titles from, but, like Joshua, he pushes the trash talk aside.
“June first I made my dreams come true,” he said. “I know Anthony Joshua is coming hard. He’s going to come strong. I know he’s going to be preparing really good…but so am I.” The California based fighter then went on to make a prediction. “I’m going to win here in the same fashion, the same way I won June 1st, and I’m going to prove everybody wrong.” After stunning the world by besting Joshua late last spring, Ruiz has seen his heart and dedication be questioned thanks to whispers that he has been too busy living the good life instead of being focused on his craft. “The hunger still remains,” he countered on Wednesday. “I don’t want it to be a fifteen minute thing, you know?”
Although Ruiz’ victory over Joshua may have ruined the plans the English fighter and his promoter may have had for super fights with Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, Hearn was clearly setting out to make lemons out of lemonade on Wednesday. “On June the first, at a sold out Madison Square Garden, we witnessed one of the great heavyweight upsets of all time,” he said. “On December the seventh in Diriya, we do it again. For your entertainment in a purpose built arena, open air, 16,000 people.”
“It’s just going to be an exciting fight,” Ruiz claimed, “helluva fight, two big heavyweights punching each other in the face. It’s going to be exciting.”