British heavyweight Anthony Joshua will fight Andy Ruiz Jnr in a rematch in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 7, it was confirmed on Friday night, hours after Telegraph Sport had broken the story.
The former world heavyweight champion hopes to claim back the IBF, WBA and WBO titles he lost on his United States debut on June 1.
The contest will take place in Diriyah on the north-western outskirts of the Saudi capital. Promoter Eddie Hearn will chair a news conference along with Omar Khalil, managing partner of Skill Challenge Entertainment, the official event partner in Saudi Arabia, to formally announce “Clash on the Dunes” in London on Monday, when the timing of the event and venue capacity will be announced.
It is understood that Saudi Arabian sports entities have put up close to $100 million for the contest to take place there. DAZN, the digital streaming service, will broadcast the event in the US, with Sky Box Office set to air it in Britain.
But the British boxer, who won the Olympic super heavyweight gold medal at London 2012, has been urged to reconsider the fight by Amnesty International.
“As with other sporting stars going to Saudi Arabia, we’d call on Joshua to inform himself of the human rights situation and be prepared to speak out about Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record,” said Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns. “If Anthony Joshua fights Andy Ruiz Jnr in Saudi Arabia, it’s likely to be yet another opportunity for the Saudi authorities to try to ‘sportswash’ their severely tarnished image.
“Despite some long-overdue reforms on women’s rights, Saudi Arabia is currently 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,” Jakens said. “There’s been no justice over the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen is carrying out indiscriminate attacks on homes, hospitals and marketplaces with horrific consequences for civilians.”
Other possible venues for the contest were considered. An offer was tabled by the Dubai authorities, while Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, on Dec 14, was also in the running for the much-anticipated rematch after Ruiz stopped Joshua at Madison Square Garden in New York in one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing, as the Briton fell to his first defeat in 23 fights.
Having been dropped to the canvas by Joshua in the third round, Ruiz responded by felling the Briton twice before referee Mike Griffin waved the fight off in the seventh round, Joshua having been knocked down twice more, and, in his view, not fit to continue.
Refusing to take a low-key comeback fight, Joshua had insisted on an immediate rematch with Ruiz on neutral ground as he looks to reclaim his position as the No 1 heavyweight and continue his attempt to become the undisputed king of the heavyweight division.
Joshua v Ruiz will not be the first boxing match to take place in the region. In the last 11 months, Saudi Arabia has hosted two major bouts involving high-profile UK boxers. Last September, the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight tournament final between Callum Smith and George Groves took place in Jeddah, won by Smith.
Last month, Amir Khan fought there, defeating Australia’s Billy Dib. Elsewhere, it is expected that British heavyweight Tyson Fury’s next contest will be announced soon for Sept 14 in Las Vegas, against Sweden’s Otto Wallin.