Sports

Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz rematch set for Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz rematch set for Saudi Arabia

SAUDI Arabia will host the world heavyweight title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz on December 7, according to Joshua's promoters Matchroom.

With the fight now set to take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an open-air venue will be constructed specifically for the contest - after talks of the bout potentially taking place in New York's Madison Square Garden.

Cardiff's Principality Stadium had been among the options to host the rematch.

Joshua, who will is aiming to take back his heavyweight titles after unexpectedly losing his first professional fight to Ruiz in NY at Madison Square Garden on 1 June, welcomed the announcement on social media with the message: "Neutral grounds - LETS GO".

The decision to stage the Ruiz rematch with Joshua in Saudi Arabia has raised eyebrows.

Saudi rulers, also under fire for the war in neighbouring Yemen, have utilised sport as a tool to try and soften their global image and to provide a showcase, they claim, for reforms inside the oil-rich state.

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The rematch will be the latest high-profile boxing event to be held in the country after Amir Khan's victory over Australian Billy Dib in July.

As he handed Ruiz the opportunity to begin with, Joshua was contractually able to call the shots with regards to where this second fight will take place.

Amnesty International criticised the choice of Saudi Arabia for the bout, citing human rights violations, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the ongoing war in Yemen. Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) had been down in the third round, but rallied to drop Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) twice in the same round and then two more times in the seventh.

"Despite some long-overdue reforms on women's rights, Saudi Arabia is now 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".

In the end, the group from Saudi Arabia agreed to put up more far more money than could be generated in either Cardiff or NY.