The heavyweight boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. will take place at a 12,000-seat open-air stadium in Diriyah, with promoter Eddie Hearn revealing that the Saudi town was selected ahead of a number of other locations.
The fight will take place on December 7, with fans who purchase tickets to be automatically issued with a visa to enter Saudi Arabia.
The country has been criticised for its human-rights record in the past and Amnesty International has said Joshua should be prepared to speak out on the matter. Amnesty UK’s head of campaigns Felix Jakens has stated that December’s fight would serve as an another opportunity for the country to ‘sportswash’ its image.
The event adds to Saudi Arabia’s growing sports portfolio, with the country having recently staged a Formula E race, European Tour golf event, football’s Italian Super Cup and the finale of the World Boxing Super Series. It was also recently announced that Saudi Arabia will host the richest event in the history of horse racing.
Joshua and Ruiz first met on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, with the latter winning by a technical knockout. The New York venue had been suggested as a location for the rematch, along with Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, where Joshua defeated Joseph Parker last year.
On the decision to take the fight to Saudi Arabia, Hearn said, according to BBC Sport: “We had approaches from Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar. We wanted to go somewhere that had a vision for the sport of boxing. We already knew Saudi Arabia was for real and investing in the sport.
“We have to realise that there is another world out there outside of Cardiff and Madison Square Garden. We have an obligation to grow the sport to new areas and regions. This event could change boxing forever. If Saudi is going to invest in these fights you could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport, which truly excites me.”
Image: Matchroom Boxing