The sport of boxing was caught off guard when it was announced that the rematch between unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and former champion Anthony Joshua has been set for December 7th in Saudi Arabia.
In June, Ruiz defied the odds and scored a huge upset over Joshua to collect the IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight titles. Inside of Madison Square Garden in New York, we saw Ruiz rise from the canvas in the third round to score four more knockdowns of his own as he captured a 7th round TKO.
Recently in London, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn held a press conference to make a formal announcement on the big December 7th show.
“The reason we’re here today, of course, is to officially announce the epic world heavyweight blockbuster event between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua, December 7th in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia,” Hearn began. “We remember, of course, June the 1st, I’d like to say ‘what a night’ but not really a night we’re going to remember too fondly, but a huge night for the heavyweight division. We saw Anthony Joshua, who has long been the man in the heavyweight division be dethroned by a fantastic Andy Ruiz in a great fight that sold out Madison Square Garden. It was a night that really turned the heavyweight industry on its head.”
To see the fight be announced or Saudi Arabia is shocking, as many expected London, New York, or Las Vegas to host the rematch.
“And we look forward to, in my opinion, the fight of the year, the fight of the division, the biggest fight out there, the heavyweight rematch between Joshua and Ruiz,” Hearn continued. “There was a lot of talk about where this fight would be held. Would it be back at Madison Square Garden, would it be at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff? We had approaches from Saudi Arabia, from Dubai, from Qatar, from Abu Dhabi, and there’s been numerous conversations in the past about staging events in that region.”
This is definitely a new venture for Hearn, who is the main content provide for the DAZN streaming service that will likely also air the rematch.
“For us, we really wanted to go somewhere who believed in the sport of boxing, who had a vision,” said Hearn. “We already knew that Saudi Arabia were for real, we already knew they were investing in the sport of boxing and that was something very important to us. We have to realize there is another world out there outside of Cardiff and Madison Square Garden. And we have an obligation to grow the sport of boxing to new areas, to new regions.”
If you have been up to date in the press, you will know all too well that this is far from a lock, as Ruiz has reportedly expressed that he would need more than his 9$ million guarantee to venture to Saudi Arabia. But Hearn is steadfast in his belief in all of this.
“And for me, this event could change boxing forever,” said Hearn. “Because if Saudi Arabia are going to invest in these kind of fights with the population that they have, with the potential to grow the sport of boxing, you could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport, and that’s something that really, truly excites me.”
It’s no secret that there could be some negotiating taking place behind the scenes, as Ruiz is connected to adviser Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions promotion, so let’s be patient. Hearn believes all parties have signed for the rematch, so we know where he stands.