By Jake Donovan
The heavyweight title fight rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua is still in search of a definitive home but is at least narrowed down to a specific time frame.
Plans are ongoing for the hotly anticipated sequel to take place somewhere “between November 16 and December 14,” according to Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter.
Joshua (22-1, 21KOs) saw his United States hands debut go down in flames, suffering his first career defeat in a 7th round stoppage at the of Ruiz earlier this month at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Ruiz Jr. made history with the win, becoming the first-ever boxer of Mexican descent to win a major heavyweight title—four in fact, collecting the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO straps in the process. Adding to the achievement was that he took the fight on less than six weeks’ notice, stepping in for unbeaten Jarrell Miller who was forced off of the show after testing positive for multiple banned substances.
Several venues in the United Kingdom—where England’s Joshua has served as a massive draw—are in the running. For the fallen heavyweight king, there remains the desire to get it right where it all went wrong.
“The job over the next week is just to finalize the details now of just where and when that will be," Hearn stated in a recent interview with UK’s Sky Sports. “We've had offers from five different countries to stage the fight.
“For me, it's a straight decision between the UK or America. Anthony feels as though it would be special to rewrite history and get the win at Madison Square Garden.”
Despite winning the fight, California’s Ruiz Jr. (33-1, 22KOs) has little say in the when and where for his first title defense. The contract he signed in replacing Miller came with the stipulation that—as with the history-making fight in June—the rematch will stream live on DAZN, and with Joshua’s side ultimately determining where it will take place.
The 6’6” Brit—who turns 30 in October—has emerged as one of the biggest draws in the world, enjoying a strong marketing push dating back to his Gold medal win at the 2012 London Olympics. He quickly rose to prominence in the pro ranks, winning his first belt less than four years into his career in a 2nd round knockout of then-unbeaten titlist Charles Martin in April 2016.
The bout played to a sold-out crowd at O2 Arena, as did his first title defense—a 7th round stoppage of Dominic Breazeale in June 2016—before filling the rafters at Manchester Arena in a one-sided rout of Eric Molina later that December.
It was his unforgettable 11-round war with former World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, however, that saw his star power rise to an entirely new level. The April 2017 title fight—which saw both fighters hit the deck—played to a record-breaking 90,000 at London’s famed Wembley Stadium, where he’d draw 80,000 for his Sept. 2018 knockout win over Alexander Povetkin.
Wedged in between were a pair of wins in front of capacity crowds at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. His Oct. 2017 stoppage of Carlos Takam—a replacement opponent for an injured Kubrat Pulev—set the world record for the largest-ever indoor attendance for a prizefight, playing to a beyond-capacity crowd of more than 78,000. A similar turnout came of his lone career distance fight, a 12-round nod over Joseph Parker in their March 2018 title unification bout, ending Parker’s 15-month title reign which began with a narrow points win over Ruiz Jr. in their Dec. 2016 vacant title fight.
The aforementioned stadiums are both in the running, as well as the 62,000 seat Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London. Very much in the mix as well as is MSG, even if playing to a smaller crowd in comparison—the venue holds a capacity of just under 21,000, which Ruiz-Joshua hit for their June 1 encounter.
“A sensible man would say 'Do it in the UK',” admits Hearn, viewing from a business perspective.
As England’s leading promoter often touts, however—he works for his athletes, not the other way around.
“Anthony feels as though it would be special to rewrite history and get the win at Madison Square Garden. It's really not about the money so much, it's just about where we believe this fight should take place and those decisions will be made in the next week.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox