icon Updated at 12:03 AM EDT, Tue Aug 13, 2019

Hearn Reacts To Label of 'Sportswash' on Joshua-Ruiz Event

Eddie Hearn, promoter for Anthony Joshua, has reacted to the heavy criticism for staging the Andy Ruiz rematch in Saudi Arabia on December 7.

Ruiz produced one of boxing's biggest heavyweight upsets by beating the 29-year-old Joshua with a seventh round stoppage at New York's Madison Square Garden on June 1.

The Briton, previously undefeated and fighting for the first time in the United States, was defending his IBF, WBA, IBO and WBO titles but was knocked down four times in the fight.

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Hearn confirmed three days after the bout that Joshua had triggered the contracted rematch clause for what he called a 'must-win' fight for the 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion.

There are many critics who are claiming that the Saudi government is using Ruiz-Joshua to "sportswash" - basically being given a chance to cleanse the country image.

"I don't understand that term," Hearn said to The Associated Press. "What I do know is all the events that they have been running have been hugely accepted by the public, enjoyed by the public and you will see when Joshua fights Ruiz in Saudi Arabia the public will love this event. They will grow the sport of boxing in that region.

"Every promoter under the sun has been trying to land a mega fight in the Middle East for many, many years. I'm the one that's done it, and with that comes a little bit of a stick because we're the trailblazers behind that. Financially, obviously, it was a good deal for AJ."

Hearn is being hit with a lot of questions regarding the country's issues with women's rights, freedom of expression and gay rights. And the country is still under fire for last year's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

"You're asking me questions that are more political based," Hearn said. "I'm a sports promoter and how I answer that is, is that they have a vision for the sport of boxing and a vision for sport. You either believe in that, or you think that has potential, or you refer to other stories.

"We knew the criticism we may face when we announced it. I refer to the fact that I've been to Saudi to an event [the World Boxing Super Series final in Jeddah in 2018]. It was a first-class event. Men and women are all welcome to this event. We've got to make sure that as many fans attend the events possible."

The AP also asked Hearn about Joshua's Israeli fans, who would be unable to enter Saudi Arabia.

"That's one well beyond my head as a sports promoter," Hearn said. "What I can tell you is, again following in the footsteps of major organizations that have staged very, very huge events."