Promoter Eddie Hearn Defends Joshua-Ruiz Rematch Location

Joshua was beaten by Ruiz in a shock on 1 June

Joshua was beaten by Ruiz in a shock on 1 June

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn says the controversial decision to stage Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr.in Saudi Arabia can "change boxing forever".

Ruiz Jr (33-1) caused one of the biggest boxing upsets in recent memory when he shocked Joshua - a four-belt world champion - at Madison Square Garden in June but there was a rematch clause in the contract in case of a Joshua (22-1) defeat.

His trainer Manny Robles says "there's a reason why" Ruiz has kept silent.

Hearn also confirmed yesterday that the options had been weighed up based on both opening up a new market and on the commercial value of the fight. The governing bodies have been informed.

"There was a lot of talk about where this fight would be held", Hearn said. He also said that internet reports that Ruiz had not agreed to fight in Saudi Arabia were incorrect. "For me this event could change boxing forever because if Saudia Arabia are going to invest in these type of fights, with the population they have, you could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport, and that is something that really truly excites me". Ruiz's seventh-round knockout was a monumental upset, as he stook Joshua's three major world title belts on June 1 at Madison Square Garden in NY.

Although Hearn and Khalil did not discuss the particulars of their deal, it has been widely reported in the British media - and not disputed by Hearn - that the Saudi Arabian site fee is almost $100 million for the fight, a figure that the sites in NY or Cardiff could not come close to matching. We had to be very comfortable because we knew there would be criticism.

He adds: 'We knew there would be some negativity when we did this but I'm a promoter and this is tremendous for boxing, helpful to Saudi Arabia's progress in the field of human rights and, of course, great financially'.

"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", he added. "With the response that we've seen, mainly good and some negative, I guarantee you with curiosity the whole world will be watching this fight".

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.

"Look at the events held there before us - Formula One, the European golf tour, the Italian Super Cup, WWE".

"People think you can't get into Saudi Arabia, or that women aren't welcome to the show".

The choice of venue has been criticised in some quarters, with Saudi Arabia coming under heightened global criticism over its human rights record.

Omar Khalil, managing partner of Skill Challenge Entertainment, said, "Saudi Arabia has been focused on enhancing the life quality of the people and sports and entertainment have been playing a major role in this". And look at the events and the organisations who have been there before us.

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