The rematch of the biggest heavyweight boxing shock in a generation, Anthony Joshua versus Andy Ruiz Jr., has officially been announced to take place in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, on December 7.
The Middle East country had reportedly issued a lucrative proposal to host the heavyweight showdown, beating other rumored offers from Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and an unnamed venue in Dubai.
This comes after prolonged negotiations between representatives of both fighters as to the destination of the fight.
Ruiz Jr. knocked Joshua down four times in seven rounds in their June 1 meeting to claim three of the four recognized world heavyweight titles in a momentous upset.
The new champion had touted a return to Madison Square Garden in New York City, the host venue for their first fight in what was Joshua’s United States debut but Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, reportedly nixed the idea.
England was also touted as a venue, but Hearn suggested that it would be unfair to the champion to travel to Joshua’s home country before Saudi Arabia emerged as a strong contender.
However, with the situation now resolved, the blockbuster rematch for the IBF, WBA and WBO world titles is scheduled for Diriyah in Saudi Arabia in December.
The announcement of Saudi Arabia as the host for the bout will no doubt raise some eyebrows in the boxing community, not least for the timezone that the bout will take place in (GMT+3) being a potential source of consternation for UK and US broadcasters.
In addition, Saudi Arabia has been criticized by Amnesty International for its “dismal human rights record,” something that the country’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has reportedly been trying to address with his ‘Vision 2030’ program aimed at diversifying the country’s economy as well as addressing elements of the health, education, infrastructure, recreation and tourism sectors.
Saudi Arabia recently hosted the Amir Khan v Billy Dib boxing match, while previously did the same for Callum Smith v George Groves but hosting the much-anticipated heavyweight title rematch represents their biggest combat sports coup to date.
The country has also expressed its interest in hosting a Formula 1 race before 2021, while it will also hold the richest single horse race in history next February.