Andy Ruiz told Joe Rogan that his rematch with Anthony Joshua wouldn't take place in England.
He wasn't kidding; the Ruiz re-test versus the thhickly muscled Brit will unfold in Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 7.
The runor that Saudi Arabia was in the mix, and maybe the front-runner, to host this event, which will screen on DAZN's OTT platform in America, was seen by many as nothing more than a leverage push. Surely the fight would land in a spot more advantageous to Joshua, closer to his home-base, right?
Nope; the planners, which include AJ, and promoter Eddie Hearn, and Al Haymon, under whose PBC banner Ruiz now fights under, have decided to go where the money is.
Of course, money sloshes around in different sectors of the planet in varying degrees. Mega bucks, mostly from fossil fuel sales, make SA a place where some bankbooks are capital T thick. It is also the birthplace of Islam, and it is likely no coincidence that Joshua has been seen praying in a mosque and though he's said he practices no religion regularly, he is not opposed to the teachings of Islam.
This Middle Eastern nation is the worlds' largest exporter of petroleum, so, there is no shortage of critics, in this new era of climate change-catastrophe, who see their POV as old school, in a bad way. America and the Sauds have by and large enjoyed positive relations, at least among the political titans who run their respective shows. Proximity to Iran and Iraq, but of course, has at times muddied the mix, with friends turning to enemies, and vice versa. America has been a weaponds supplier to SA, during the Obama terms in office, and more so since Trump took the big seat. This current American administration has been more than cozy with the SA power brokers, the autocratic monarchy, and progressives in the US have regularly spoken up against that dynamic. Critics note that Osama Bin Laden and 15 of 19 hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on various US targets were Saudis. Criticism on the left grew louder after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who'd been living in America for several years, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in October of 2018. Conditions in Yemen, site of a civil war with Saudi-led forces being knee deep in that, have been described a genocidal scene. Famine is taking a brutal toll on many millions of innocents, so fingers are crossed that charged scene gets resolved.
All that will be immaterial, it seems, in the pursuit of profitable commerce. Saudi Arabia, detractors say, has one of worst human rights records in the world. Public beheadings of critics of the power holders, for instance, don't sit well with many. But often, in fact usually, we adhere to a seperation of sport, and politics.
Joshua seems outwardly unfazed by a track record of perceived offenses in the realm of civil and human rights. See his social media post:
Promoter Hearn said the sequel will take place in Diriyah, in an out-door arena now being built. For the record, Saudi Arabia is seven hours ahead of us, on the East Coast of NY, so timing of the scrap, and at what time we in America will watch the fight will be an issue. I'd think maybe AJ-Ruiz get in the ring at 4-5 PM ET.
My thoughts: OK, I cannot think that there are that many people besides Eddie and AJ who are wanting this thing to take place in SA. OK, the rulers there who are seeking to tell the world that their society is becoming more progressive, progress not perfection. Women can drive there now, they couldn't before. Would the DAZN people have preferred the sequel take place in NY, or UK? Damn straight, you have to think. Yeah, they save money with the Saudis handing over a ludicrous site fee. But would they rather have paid up, and had the sequel on during prime time? Safe to say YES. The arena will fit maybe 6-7,000 so it won't be as it if the regular Joes and Janes there can attend. It will all look like a million bucks and allow a narrow few to profit ultra handsomely. That's capitalism for you, at times. The WWE crew, and various other sports entertainment conglomerates have decided to make the trek to the Middle East. It is up to each and every person to decide what they think about the site, and the players, and the decisions being made.
Beyond that…who wins and how, Ruiz versus Joshua? Is AJ's head on straight? Will be be less muscled, and move more, and fight smarter? Can Ruiz yank himself away from his victory tour and get back to doing the grind work?