Promoter Eddie Hearn defends decision to stage Joshua-Ruiz rematch in Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr. - Press Conference

Eddie Hearn claims Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia could change boxing forever.

The bout, dubbed ‘Clash on the Dunes’, will see Joshua bid to win back the IBF, WBA and WBO titles which Ruiz Jr took from him in a stunning upset at Madison Square Garden in June, and will take place on December 7.

Amnesty International has criticised the choice of Saudi Arabia for the fight, citing human rights violations, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the ongoing war in Yemen.

But Matchroom boss Hearn defended the controversial choice of venue, pointing out the other high-profile sports to have taken place in the country.

At a press conference to confirm the rematch at London’s Savoy Hotel, promoter Hearn said: “There has been a lot of talk about where this fight would be held.

“For us we wanted to go somewhere that believed in the sport of boxing, who had a vision.

“We have to realise there is a world outside of Cardiff and Madison Square Garden. This event could change boxing forever. You could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport.

“There is time for change there, and they are trying to make that change through sport.

“People think you can’t get into Saudi Arabia, or that women aren’t welcome to the show. Men and women are welcome. If you buy a ticket you get an automatic visa, and it’s six hours away.

Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr. - Press Conference

“We understand some criticism, but we also understand the people that have been there before us – organisations that are considerably bigger than us.

“Look at the events held there before us – Formula One, the European golf tour, the Italian Super Cup, WWE. It will be an iconic moment for boxing.”

The neutral venue was at the request of Ruiz Jr, who did not want to fight in Britain.

The bout, the latest high-profile boxing event to be held in the country after Amir Khan’s victory over Australian Billy Dib in July, will take place in Diriyah, a town on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh.

Hearn revealed the fight will air at around 9pm UK time.

Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr. - Press Conference

He added: “When we realised Saudi Arabia was serious about boxing we looked into the logistical side and that blew our mind as well.

“This will go down as one of the great fights, alongside the Rumble in the Jungle, the Thrilla in Manila.

“This is Anthony Joshua  trying to regain his world title. AJ must win. With curiosity the whole word will be watching this fight.”

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