Saudi Arabia to stage Joshua-Ruiz rematch

LONDON • Saudi Arabia will stage the world heavyweight title rematch between Britain's Anthony Joshua and champion Andy Ruiz Jr, promoters announced on Friday.

The Dec 7 fight, dubbed "Clash on the Dunes", will see Joshua trying to win back the World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organisation titles he sensationally lost in New York's Madison Square Garden in June.

It will be in Diriyah, which incorporates the Unesco World Heritage site of Al-Turaif, on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh. Promoters Matchroom Boxing said details will be revealed at a news conference in London tomorrow.

Joshua tweeted yesterday: "Neutral grounds - Let's go. Dec 7th, time to be 2X."

The Briton, previously undefeated and fighting for the first time in the United States, was knocked down four times. Promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed three days later Joshua had triggered the contracted rematch clause for what he called a "must-win" fight for the 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion.

Cardiff's Principality Stadium was tipped as the venue but Ruiz, an American, had insisted that it be in the US or at a neutral venue.

The new bout will be the highest-profile boxing event in Saudi Arabia, after welterweight Amir Khan's win over Australia's Billy Dib in Jeddah on July 12. It also hosted the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight final between British fighters Callum Smith and George Groves last year.

But news of the new bout has elicited backlash from human-rights campaigners.

The Saudis have faced intense diplomatic fallout over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the conservative kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

"If Anthony Joshua fights Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia, it's likely to be yet another opportunity for the Saudi authorities to try to 'sportswash' their severely tarnished image," said Amnesty UK's head of campaigns Felix Jakens.

AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 11, 2019, with the headline 'Saudi Arabia to stage Joshua-Ruiz rematch'. Print Edition | Subscribe