The heavyweight world title rematch between three-belt titleholder Andy Ruiz Jr. and former titlist Anthony Joshua will take place on Dec. 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing announced on Friday.
Hearn was mum on any other details about the event — dubbed “Clash on the Dunes” — for which there will be a news conference on Monday in London that will include Omar Khalil, the managing partner of Skill Challenge Entertainment, the group putting up tens of millions of dollars to bring the fight to Saudi Arabia.
Diriyah is a city on the outskirts of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The bout will take place at a temporary outdoor stadium that will be erected solely to host the fight, multiple sources with knowledge of the plans told ESPN.
The decision to take the fight to Saudi Arabia comes as a surprise. Days after Ruiz’s massive upset of Joshua to take his world titles, Joshua exercised his right to an immediate rematch, and Hearn said the bout would take place at either Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, or at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the same site as the fight on June 1.
England’s Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs), 29, was torn between having the rematch on his turf in the United Kingdom or returning to New York to seek revenge in the same ring where he got knocked down four times and suffered his first loss by seventh-round knockout in his United States debut.
Hearn expected the decision on the date and location to be set by the first few days of July, but it dragged out for weeks as groups from other locations began offering deals to bring the fight elsewhere.
In the end, the group from Saudi Arabia agreed to put up more far more money than could be generated in either Cardiff or New York. Also, by going to a neutral location, it soothes Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs), 29, of Imperial, California, and the first fighter of Mexican descent to win a heavyweight world title.
Ruiz, who had no input into the site selection, has said he was uncomfortable having the rematch on Joshua’s turf.
The fight will be televised on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom, which is only two hours earlier than it is in Diriyah, meaning likely massive business for the fight compared to if it was in New York, which is five hours behind London, meaning the bout would take place in the wee hours of the London morning.
The fight likely will be streamed on DAZN in the United States, although that deal has not yet been finalized, a source told ESPN. DAZN, which carried the first fight, pressed for the rematch to be in New York but would pay eight figures less with the fight in Saudi Arabia than New York because of the seven-hour time difference, the source said.
While Saudi Arabia is not a usual place for a major fight, it has hosted two notable bouts in the past year, luring them there with large site fees.
In September, Callum Smith knocked out George Groves in the seventh round to win a super middleweight world title in the final of the first season of the World Boxing Super Series at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
On July 12, popular welterweight Amir Khan knocked out Billy Dib in the fourth round at the same site.