By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Eddie Hearn has been assured Andy Ruiz Jr. is fully on board for his rematch against Anthony Joshua.
After initially stating that he wouldn’t travel to Saudi Arabia to fight Joshua again, Hearn confirmed Thursday that he and Ruiz’s handlers have come to an agreement for Ruiz to defend his IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles versus Joshua on December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. Hearn has helped put Ruiz’s mind at ease regarding the champion’s safety during this trip abroad and, according to a report Thursday by The Athletic, added an unspecified sum of money to Ruiz’s $9 million purse to entice him to honor his contractual obligation for an immediate rematch.
“[After expressing some concerns], he came back and said, ‘I’m talking. I’m sorting everything out,’ ” Hearn told a group of reporters Thursday following the Gennady Golovkin-Sergiy Derevyanchenko press conference at Madison Square Garden. “That’s been sorted out. There’s a press conference in two weeks. Both fighters will be there. Saudi Arabia, London, New York. He’s quite right to ask questions, his team. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t. All those questions have been satisfied. You’ll hear from Andy Ruiz in the next day or so about the fight.”
Hearn has taken a lot of criticism for bringing this high-profile fight to heavily scrutinized Saudi Arabia. He offered a reminder Thursday, though, that Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs), of Imperial, California, could’ve come to the United Kingdom for his immediate rematch with England’s Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs).
“He wanted it on neutral [ground],” Hearn said. “You know, he didn’t want to come to the UK. So, you can’t moan about not coming to the UK. Then you get a neutral venue, and you moan about a neutral venue. He was given an opportunity from the gods. And he pulled off an opportunity from the gods, which he deserves. Be a man. Honor the contract. That is what he will do. That is what his team will do. Tom Brown, Al Haymon, Luis De Cubas, all those people [are] fully on board to deliver what they’ve promised they’ll deliver in writing, by law.”
Joshua’s promoter acknowledged Thursday that money was the primary motivation for bringing a heavyweight title bout between an American and a Brit to Saudi Arabia.
“Why Saudi Arabia?,” Hearn said. “Because it was a neutral venue. And all these conversations were had with Ruiz’s team, where we said to him, ‘We wanna do it in London.’ [They said], ‘Look, he really don’t wanna do it in London. He’s got a major problem.’ [We said], ‘OK, we’ll do it in a neutral venue. What would you prefer? London or Saudi Arabia?’ Their response? ‘Saudi Arabia.’ All right?
“Of course, the money’s good. I’m not gonna lie to you. But there is a chance, and I keep saying to people there is a whole other world out there for boxing. If the Middle East becomes invested in the sport of boxing, I promise you, unfortunately for you guys, you will not be seeing as many mega-fights in this country or in the UK, because this country and the UK cannot match the potential investment for fights in the Middle East. That’s just fact.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.