By Jake Donovan
Monday’s press conference in London, England should reveal quite a bit about the forthcoming rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua.
Among them, we will find out just how on board is Ruiz with currently announced plans.
The defending unified heavyweight titlist has yet to publicly comment on the recent news of his hotly anticipated rematch with England’s Joshua due to take place December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Joshua, promoter Eddie Hearn and his Matchroom Boxing outfit all took to social media to reveal the news last Friday.
Ruiz’s interaction has been limited to simply “liking” a posted tweet from sports streaming service DAZN, which carried the memorable first fight and will likely do the same for the rematch—assuming there’s a rematch to stream.
“You haven’t heard anything from Andy Ruiz and there’s a reason why, right,” Manny Robles, Ruiz’s head trainer stated in a recent video interview with FightHype.com. “You have one party saying… we’re fighting Dec. 7. You got the promoter going out on a limb saying we’re fighting Dec. 7 in Saudi Arabia.
“But you haven’t heard anything from the other party and that’s Andy Ruiz so everybody has to hold off and wait.”
What that means regarding Ruiz’s participation in Monday’s press conference has yet to be clarified by either side. It’s not uncommon for one participant to not attend such a session especially when taking place abroad, although the party often would join via live video feed.
Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22KOs) shocked the world in June, accepting the opportunity of a lifetime on less than six weeks’ notice to face Joshua, then an unbeaten unified titlist who was making his U.S. debut with the event taking place at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
The party was spoiled when Ruiz Jr. recovered from a 3rd round knockdown to score four of his own in stopping Joshua (22-1, 21KOs) in seven rounds to become the first-ever Mexican boxer to win a heavyweight title.
Nearly every day of the past two months since then have been spent in search of a proper location for the rematch which Joshua called for through a clause in their fight contract. The agreement also specified how much Ruiz Jr. would make for such a fight, along with the concession that Joshua and Hearn would determine where the event would take place.
DAZN brass pushed for the event to take place in the U.S., viewing it as a huge opportunity to bolster subscriptions. Such a route was ruled out by Hearn in late July, nearly a month after insisting that the final location would be announced “next week.” With the U.S. out of the mix, Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales became the frontrunner, with Joshua having twice before headlining at the football stadium, drawing more than 150,000 fans combined for his two showings there.
Ruiz Jr. publicly voiced his displeasure over heading to the United Kingdom, however, after word leaked out over the manner in which drug testing results were handled for heavyweight Dillian Whyte in his July 20th win over Oscar Rivas. The top-rated contender from Brixton, England produced a drug testing showing adverse findings for a banned substance one month prior to the fight, only to be notified just three days before the event.
A bigger issue was that Rivas and his team were kept in the dark over the ordeal, including a hearing held the morning of the fight to determine whether Whyte would be cleared to fight that evening. Rivas’ handlers didn’t learn of the development until reading about it four days later on this very website.
The development spooked Ruiz Jr. enough to insist upon a neutral location if Joshua wasn’t going to travel to the U.S. or Mexico for the rematch. It was enough to prompt Hearn to keep open other options, ultimately landing on the Middle East location, with on-site event handlers reportedly providing a massive site fee to make the move a financial no-brainer.
Such sentiments have not at all been shared by the public, particularly in the UK where fans feel cheated out of losing a major heavyweight event they felt they’ve deserved after years of passionately supporting Joshua’s career.
Others have indicated the safety risks involved along with human rights concerns, particularly treatment towards women and homosexuals as well as the nation’s involvement in the assassination of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, which has gone unpunished.
Barring a lawyer determining he otherwise has a say in the matter, however, Ruiz Jr. might not be in a position to do any more than vehemently—and legitimately—complain about where his next assignment will in fact take place.
“You know what, at the end of the day we’re willing to fight any place, anywhere,” acknowledges Robles, though also disclaiming that he was not at all involved in any part of the negotiations for the rematch. “That’s what a champion does. You know what I mean?
“If it means going to Wales, going to England… in this case going to Saudi Arabia… or even going back to New York, we gotta do what we gotta do.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox