It has been announced by Matchroom Sport in the last few days that after much negotiation and press speculation John Ruiz Jr. will face Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia.
This rematch is for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight boxing titles. The first fight, which was considered a shock result, saw the underrated challenger, Andy Ruiz Jr. beat the heavily fancied bookmakers favourite, and champion, Anthony Joshua.
The first fight was held at the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York. It was Anthony Joshua’s first fight outside of his native United Kingdom, where he had been comfortably selling out the national outdoor football and rugby stadiums of England and Wales.
This fight, on paper, was seen in the eyes of many as an easy stepping stone for Joshua. An easy touch to test his drawing power in the ever so lucrative American market.
However, the planning of the original bout did not run smoothly, as John Ruiz Jr. was not Anthony Joshua’s original opponent for the bout. Anthony Joshua was due to fight Jarrell Miller, but 2 months out, was removed due to failing two drug tests. Rather than reschedule, Ruiz was ushered in as a last-minute replacement.
The press conferences leading up to the first fight were a surreal experience, John Ruiz Jr. though an American fighter with Mexican heritage was largely ignored with most questions targetted at Anthony Joshua.
The fight did not go according to the script. Anthony Joshua suffered his first loss by technical knockout and lost his titles to John Ruiz Jr in New York. John Ruiz Jr. made history on that night becoming the first heavyweight champion of the world with Mexican heritage.
With a rematch clause in his contract, Anthony Joshua will have the opportunity for an immediate fight against John Ruiz Jr. to reclaim his titles. The talk in the press has been where should the fight take place. With Anthony Joshua still having the upper hand in negotiations, with his shrewd business team’s clauses in the original fight contract, would Anthony Joshua go back to England and fight at home?
It was stated that Ruiz did not want to fight in the UK. Who would blame him? That is a fight happening in a hostile environment, where all of the spectators would be backing his opponent. With Ruiz’s Mexican heritage, it was suggested that the fight could take place in Mexico, but with how passionate the fan base is there, would Joshua want to fight in the lion’s den?
What was most surprising, is that the fight will not take place in the US or UK or even Mexico, the fight will take place in Saudi Arabia instead. The heat and humidity will put both fighters on equal footing, as they are both unfamiliar with fighting in such a hot climate. But with all the breaches of human rights in Saudi Arabia, is it a fitting location for such a high profile bout?
Many on social media have called for the fight to be moved to another location. That Saudi Arabia should be shunned, remain an outcast to the larger world until it proves that either the claims against their human rights failings are false, or that they clean up their act. Others have stated that the fans will miss out. UK, US and Mexican fans that are now going to have to pay a lot of money to travel halfway across the world to attend the bout.
I like the idea of a world title being defended across the world. I know that fighters in the past have chosen to stay in certain locale due to that being where the money is. However, shouldn’t every country have the right to host a world title fight? As I am unaware of Saudi Arabia’s human rights infringements I can not comment to say either way if they should or should not host the event. But the bottom line is they had the money to host the event, and I am sure that if another country made a higher offer that the fight would take place there instead.
The fight is going to be interesting on so many levels. Will lightning strike twice and John Ruiz Jr. defend the title he claimed as an underdog in New York those many months ago? Or will Anthony Joshua reclaim his championships and continue his marketing campaign in the US? Will Saudia Arabia’s climate play a factor in the fight that is contested by two huge men?
I suppose we will have to find out on 7th December 2019.