WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jnr has confirmed he will rematch former champion Anthony Joshua before the end of the year but stresses the fight will not take place in Saudi Arabia, as announced earlier this week.
The plan, according to a press release last Friday and a press conference on Monday, was for the rematch to happen on December 7 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Absent from this press conference, however, were the two fighters, Ruiz and Joshua, and there was speculation over the weekend that the champion wasn’t best pleased with the premature announcement of a Middle East showdown. Addressing his fans on social media, Ruiz today confirmed this to be true.
“I know everybody is talking about the fight and all that, but we got the real news coming soon and the fight is going to happen soon,” said Ruiz.
“We’ve got the rematch. But it’s going to be on my terms and our terms. We’re going to bring it back here in the United States.
“‘Like I said, I don’t have no protection over there (in Saudi Arabia). The United States of America wants to … never mind, I can’t say nothing, but the fight is going to happen soon.”
On Monday, Eddie Hearn, the event promoter, appeared alongside Omar Khalil, the managing partner of Skill Challenge Entertainment, and claimed Ruiz had signed his side of the contract, leaving them free to announce the date and venue.
“They have 100 per cent signed the contract for this fight,” Hearn said. “This is boxing. Of course, when Andy Ruiz signed the contract for the first and second fights, it was a dream come true for him.
“He would have taken much less to be honest with you. Once he wins the first fight, every man and his dog from his local gym is telling him he should be getting this and that.
“The deal was very fair. The deal was negotiated and everyone who signed that deal, whether it was Tom Brown, his promoter, whether it’s Ruiz himself, Al Haymon, his management company, they all know their obligations.”
It seemed initially that Ruiz’s preferred choice of venue was Madison Square Garden, New York, whereas Joshua quite fancied bringing the rematch to the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales. To compromise, Hearn felt the decision to bring the fight to Saudi Arabia would keep both fighters happy.
“They made it clear they didn’t want to come to the UK,” he said. “We were within our rights to stage it in the UK but, to be honest with you, we didn’t want any excuses. There would have been 10 times more problems with Andy Ruiz to come to the UK than a neutral venue.
“That process was discussed with them and they said they would be a lot more comfortable to go to Saudi Arabia. Once that decision was made, the contracts were signed last Wednesday or Thursday and myself and Tom Brown emailed the governing bodies to let them know the date of the fight, the venue for the fight and that process is confirmed with the governing bodies.”
Once a late-notice replacement, Andy Ruiz Jnr seemed overjoyed just to get the opportunity to face Anthony Joshua on June 1 in New York. Critics called him a ‘competition winner’, suggesting he was content to take part, hold Joshua’s belts, and pose for pictures. He was billed as the fall guy, the sacrificial lamb, and was expected to follow the script.
Now, though, the entire picture has changed. Now, thanks to a stunning upset victory, it’s Andy Ruiz who is the one with the belts and it’s Andy Ruiz who, evidently, is the one calling the shots – or so he believes.
There was once a time when it seemed inevitable Amir Khan and Kell Brook would settle their differences in a ring located somewhere inside a UK football stadium.
The fact it never happened left both a little lighter in the pocket and blaming one another for failing to deliver what most fans considered a natural fight.
Now, years later, Khan has relocated his career to Saudi Arabia and Brook has yet to box at all in 2019, meaning he is constantly subjected to questions regarding retirement. But their egos remain just as they were.
Because of this, it’s unlikely the two will ever meet.
“He should get in line,” Khan said on the Ask the Experts podcast. “I really feel he should retire. I don’t want to fight him, give him a beating and hurt him.
“He should retire because he’s had two eye sockets broken, he’s already slurring. He’s been beaten up basically.
“Kell has nothing exciting going for him. That’s why he keeps calling my name out and living off the back of that.
“So I just feel that if the fight happens, it happens and he would get hurt. Boxing is a tough sport, especially when someone is already broken. I don’t want to be giving any more punishment to him.
“If he does fight me, there’s only one winner.”
Though it may sound like compassion, rest assured, it isn’t. Khan, rather than feel concerned about Brook’s well-being, is simply buoyed by the thought his pro career, which started a year later than Brook’s in 2005, remains semi-relevant while Brook, for now, lingers in a sort of boxing purgatory.
It’s not a victory for Khan, at least not the one he always wanted, but it will do.