Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Joshua vs Ruiz is a ground-breaking first in Saudi Arabia

The kingdom will host the heavyweight boxing rematch, shattering Arab world stereotypes

Anthony Joshua was defeated and stripped of his four heavyweight titles when he lost against relatively unknown Andy Ruiz in June. Reuters
Anthony Joshua was defeated and stripped of his four heavyweight titles when he lost against relatively unknown Andy Ruiz in June. Reuters

On December 7, Saudi Arabia will host the heavyweight world title rematch between two larger-than-life figures, much to the excitement of millions of fans worldwide. The repeat clash between Britain’s Anthony Joshua and America’s Andy Ruiz at a purpose-built venue near Riyadh will constitute the highest profile sporting event in the Kingdom since Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman embarked on an ambitious series of social and cultural reforms in 2017, with a bid to opening up Saudi Arabia to tourism.

Even those who don't regularly follow sport will be watching to see the knock-on effect of this clash of the titans, set to generate millions via ticket sales, promotional deals and screening rights. More than 13 million tuned in as Joshua was crushingly defeated and stripped of his four heavyweight titles when he last came up against relative unknown Ruiz in June in Madison Square Garden, New York. He will no doubt be keen to regain his title as one of the world's toughest boxing opponents. The pay-off for Saudi Arabia will be huge, as officials seek to expand the Kingdom’s tourism sector beyond visitors to the holy sites. The bout will take place on the same weekend as the Dubai Rugby Sevens, one of several events that have helped establish the UAE as a fixture on the international sporting calendar. The kingdom has already hosted matches from boxing champion Amir Khan. Together with the Saudi tournament and the Dubai World Cup, such events signal to the world that the Middle East is a natural home for world-class sporting triumphs, drawing the attention of fans around the world.

Updated: August 11, 2019 07:13 PM

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