Sport

Why Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz rematch was moved to Saudi Arabia

Why Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz rematch was moved to Saudi Arabia”

Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Boxing and DAZN made the return announcement on Friday before confirming a press conference for Monday.

Joshua suffered the first defeat of his career at Madison Square Garden in June as he was knocked down four times before Ruiz sealed his surprise victory in the seventh round.

The New York venue was in the running to host the rematch, as was Cardiff's Principality Stadium, however Diriyah, where the first Saudi State was established in 1745, saw off the competition. A European Tour event took place back in January where former world number one Justin Rose was among the competitors, while the 2020 Saudi Cup is set to become the richest race in horse racing's history.

Saudi Arabian rulers, also under fire for the war in Yemen, have utilized sport as a tool to soften their global image and to provide a showcase, they claim, for reforms inside the oil-rich state.

Saudi Arabia has faced intense diplomatic fallout over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul past year.

Joshua quickly activated a rematch clause in his contract after the fight.

"Despite some long-overdue reforms on women's rights, Saudi Arabia is now in the grip of a sweeping human rights crackdown - with women's rights activists, lawyers and members of the Shia minority community all being targeted".

'In the second round I heard the crowd booing, someone told me there was a fight going on in the arena, that's why, ' he said.

Only last month Amir Khan trounced Australian Billy Dib at the King Abdullah Sports City arena, with the former world champion making £7m for the four round win.

Khan said he did not regret agreeing to the trip despite Amnesty describing the Saudi human rights record as "abysmal". "They had a huge concert where everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves".

United Kingdom fight fans can expect "AJ" and "The Destroyer" to make their ringwalks any time after 11pm (GMT), as Saudi Arabia is two hours ahead of the UK.

'But I think behind the scenes, the efforts, the education, the mind training that it takes to develop these skills and capabilities to be in that position are tiring.



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