Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has today defended the choice of Saudi Arabia as the location for the hugely anticipated re-match between Andy Ruiz, Junior and Anthony Joshua later this year.
Joshua is seeking to win back the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight belts he lost to his Mexican opponent at Madison Square Garden in a hugely surprising result in June. The seventh-round stoppage was the very first defeat of Joshua's career.
The re-match, dubbed 'Clash on the Dunes', is set for December 7th at around 9pm Irish time. And speaking at a press conference at London's Savoy Hotel to announce the fight, Hearn was keen to defend the choice of country to host the bout.
"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."
Saudi Arabia has hosted a number of fights in recent times, including Callum Smith's World Boxing Super Series victory against George Groves. Amir Khan's win over Billy Dib was also held there last month, while Khan looks set to take on Manny Pacquiao in the Arabian Peninsula state later this year.
Jeddah was the city used for both of those aforementioned fights, but the Ruiz Jr-Joshua re-match is set for Diriyah, on the outskirts of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) August 12, 2019
London-based NGO Amnesty International have been quick to criticise sporting events being held in Saudi Arabia. Human rights violations, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October of last year, and the ongoing war in Yemen have all been cited as reasons for the country to be avoided for hosting events such as this.
Hearn, however, has used the example of previous sporting events being held there as the reasoning behind the decision.
"When we realised Saudi Arabia was serious about boxing we looked into the logistical side and that blew our mind as well.
"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.
"With curiosity, the whole world will be watching this fight."
Hearn also added that the stadium will be purpose-built for 15,000 fans, and reiterated his desire to see British boxing fans attend the fight in person.
The Principality Stadium in Cardiff - a site of two previous Joshua victories - had originally been thought of as the most likely venue for the fight.
Meanwhile, Ruiz Jr made calls for the bout to be held in the location of his first-ever professional fight - Tijuana.
The current champion was born in California but his parents are from Mexico.