By: Sean Crose
Boxing fans looking to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now have a chance to satisfy both the inner fan and the inner tourist, for Matchroom Boxing announced on Sunday that tickets for the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua rematch are now on sale. The first bout between the two heavyweights, which went down at New York’s Madison Square Garden last June, was one of the sport’s biggest upsets in years, as Ruiz stopped legitimate star and titlist Joshua in the Englishman’s US debut. Rather than fight in Great Britain (Joshua territory) or the United States (Ruiz territory), the two will meet for a second time in the most neutral of locations.
“On December 7,” Matchroom stated in a press release, “in the UNESCO heritage site of Diriyah – known as the land of kings and heroes – Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua will attempt to recapture belts taken from him by Andy ‘Destroyer’ Ruiz Jr in Diriyah Arena, a purpose-built arena for 15,000 fans on the night.” Matchroom also claimed that “travelers from 49 countries across the world can now secure 90 day tourist visas online in just seven minutes.” Joshua promoter, and Matchroom honcho, Eddie Hearn made sure to present himself in full salesman mode for the occasion:
“We already know there is a great passion for boxing in the Kingdom,” he stated, “but AJ and Andy will want their fans to come and support them, from across the region and from the UK and the US and Mexico.” Hearn also compared the fight and its surprising locality to famed battles of lore. “Due to the unique venue,” he said, “being staged outside of the UK or the US, the fight has already seen parallels drawn in the media to some of the most iconic fights in history, such as Muhammad Ali’s fights against George Foreman – ‘the Rumble in the Jungle’ – and Joe Frazier – the ‘Thrilla in Manila’”.
Clearly the Diriyah location is being used as a huge selling point and attention getter for the bout, which is being promoted as The Clash on the Dunes.“We have already seen the energy created by boxing when we staged the World Boxing Super Series match last year,” claimed Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, who is the Chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority. “This landmark moment – the first World Heavyweight Title fight in the Middle East – now takes that excitement to a whole new level.” He further stated that: “Athletes and audiences can expect to be knocked out by the passionate reception this event will enjoy in the Kingdom, and now, with the launch of tourism visas for 49 countries, it has never been easier for fans from around the world to come be part of history.”
The excitement was shared by Saudi Center for Energy Efficiency Chairman HH Prince Khaled bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. “This is a historic moment for Saudi Arabia,” he said, “welcoming the first World Heavyweight Championship. As a nation we have started to pave the way for becoming a global player in the sports and entertainment industry and we have witnessed a real appetite for the boxing sport.” He added that “This is the biggest boxing fight that has taken place in the region to date and we are bringing it to Saudi Arabia on December 7 – the world is watching us and we promise to deliver an unparalleled experience. SCEE are a proud partner of the GSA bringing Clash on the Dunes to Diriyah Season, 2019.”