It took some time to sort things out, but we finally know when and where the rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua will happen.
It was confirmed on Friday that Ruiz vs. Joshua is on tap for December 7th in what anyone would consider a logical place to put such a high-stakes matchup: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The venue will be open-air and constructed specifically for the bout, per The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger.
There was initial talk of placing the rematch in Madison Square Garden, the same venue where Ruiz shocked the world with a TKO win over the heavily favored Joshua in June, as well as the Principality Stadium in the United Kingdom. Instead, it looks as if the Saudis paid a massive site fee to stage the event. In turn, DAZN’s own license fee for broadcast rights to the bout decreased drastically, seeing as it won’t be in the United States (or even the United Kingdom) as they had desired.
Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) wasn’t even supposed to fight Joshua in the first place, but when Jarrell Miller was pulled for failing multiple drug tests, the Mexican-American was chosen as the replacement opponent on just five weeks notice. Despite a resume lacking high-level opponents, Ruiz stepped up to the occasion and rallied from an early knockdown to floor Joshua an astonishing four times for a truly historic victory to capture the IBF, WBO, and WBA heavyweight belts.
Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) is one of the biggest draws in boxing, regularly packing arenas and stadiums in his home country. His fight vs. Ruiz was his United States debut, and his American dream turned into a nightmare. He notably has wins over Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, and Wladimir Klitschko, but the heavyweight picture now looks drastically different compared to even two years ago. Suddenly the talk isn’t exclusively about Joshua fighting Deontay Wilder, or Joshua against Tyson Fury, but rather Joshua may find himself on the outside looking in if he can’t even the score with Ruiz.
The elephant in the room is the fact that this fight is in Saudi Arabia, as that country continues to invest heavily in sports, particularly boxing. Their poor human rights record and the recent gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey has led (among other reasons) to calls for boycotting sporting events in Saudi Arabia. Instead, between Amir Khan’s recent farcical main event against Billy Dib last month, the World Boxing Super Series final between George Groves and Callum Smith last year, and now the securing of Ruiz vs. Joshua 2 at a cost of at least $40 million, they intend to establish themselves as a major player in world boxing.
We will know more details about the event at a press conference on Monday. For now, Ruiz vs. Joshua 2 is on, just not in a location that’s desired by fight fans.