By: Sean Crose
The rematch to the biggest upset in years is set to go down December 7th. For on that day, in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, Anthony Joshua will be looking to regain the heavyweight titles he lost from Andy Ruiz via stunning knockout this past June. “Neutral grounds,” Joshua tweeted upon Friday’s announcement. “LETS GO – Dec 7th, time to be 2X – 258MGT .” DAZN USA also jumped into the fray, tweeting: “The Rematch is Confirmed. #RuizJoshua2.” The Saudi Arabian setting may seem odd, as the middle eastern nation certainly isn’t known as a boxing haven. As Joshua stated in his tweet, however, the rematch will most certainly be held on “neutral ground,” as the location for the match appeared to be in question right from the get-go.
As it stands, Ruiz-Joshua 2 will most likely be the biggest fight of 2019 (unless Canelo Alvarez and arch foil Gennady Golovkin somehow miraculously end up engaging in a third battle by year’s end). The first bout between Mexican-American Ruiz and England’s Joshua wasn’t seen walking in as being much more than a tuneup for the then-undefeated, muscle bound defending champ Joshua. Ruiz didn’t look like much of a fighting specimen, with his smiling face and generous midsection. In fact, many simply saw the bout, which went down at New York’s Madison Sqaure Garden, as a way for Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn to test the American waters. It was Joshua’s first fight in the States, and – with huge bouts with Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on the horizon – there was a desire to explore the European star’s popularity on the other side of the Atlantic.
Ruiz ended up giving Joshua the rudest welcome the man could have possibly imagined to American soil. After tasting the canvas himself, the Californian proved he was more than simply a stand in who had lost a decision to Joseph Parker. For Ruiz went on to put Joshua down several times himself, until the fight was rightly stopped in the 7th. The defeated Joshua appeared to be out of it at the moment he lost his titles, his head concussed by Ruiz’ powerful and quick punches. Yet if Joshua and Hearn were stunned, the boxing world was shocked, as well. Although well regarded, Ruiz was never seen as much of a threat to any of the major players in the reinvigorated heavyweight division. Now he holds three of the four major titles, and will be entering the biggest heavyweight title matchup in years.
Although the rematch was virtually guaranteed from the outset, it’s announced location has come as something of a surprise (although Saudi Arabia had recently been talked about as the backdrop for the fight), and is already emerging as one of the highlights of the story. Joshua will enter the ring with a record of 22-1, while Ruiz will slip between the ropes boasting a record of 33-1.
The Ruiz-Joshua rematch is, fittingly perhaps, being promoted as “Clash on the Dunes.”