Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 2 is now ’Clash on the Dunes’ as the rematch heads to Saudi Arabia
So the rumours were true. Eddie Hearn, promoter of Anthony Joshua, told us recently that neutral venues had come into consideration for the former unified heavyweight champion’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, who bullied AJ to defeat and took his titles in June, in New York. In the last few days, Saudi Arabia edged into apparent contention and now Hearn has confirmed the return will take place on December 7 in Diriyah, in a purpose-built venue that will reportedly hold between 7-8,000 spectators.
’Clash on the Dunes’ may not boast the live gate of a Wembley Stadium or the fight-week infrastructure of New York and Las Vegas, but it does solve the dispute that was developing regarding home advantage. Hearn insisted the original contract indicated he and Joshua could choose the rematch location, but Ruiz Jr refused visit Britain for the assignment. Another plus, for British fans at least, is the fact Saudi Arabia is only two hours ahead of us, meaning a UK primetime main event is probable.
On the flip side, the headline act could start as early as 4pm ET in America which will surely harm viewing figures Stateside. Presumably the Saudi cash on offer outweighed such issues for Hearn and Al Haymon - whose PBC outfit promotes Ruiz Jr.
Of greater concern for many is the kingdom’s highly problematic human rights record. While one of the WBSS finals has been staged there, as was the recent Amir Khan vs Billy Dib farce, but this is by far the highest profile boxing event to be planned there and that could be seen by the wider world, and the media, as an endorsement of Saudi Arabia’s antipathetic attitude towards women and freedom of the press. WWE now stages regular shows there and has encountered widespread criticism.
Alternatively, if Matchroom, PBC and the two fighters use their vast platform to attempt to change some key hearts and minds, maybe this could be a venture that goes beyond a simple but lucrative cash grab. We can but hope.