‘Clash on the Dunes’ will make boxing history, vow Ruiz, Joshua

Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr., left, and Britain’s Anthony Joshua came face to face in Ad Diriyah for the first time since their world title fight in New York in June. (AN photo)
Updated 10 September 2019

‘Clash on the Dunes’ will make boxing history, vow Ruiz, Joshua

  • Stage is set for the first-ever world heavyweight title fight in the Kingdom
  • Fighters square off at press conference in the historic Ad Diriyah city

RIYADH: Boxing history will be written in the sands of Saudi Arabia as Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua promise the colossal “Clash on the Dunes” will go down as one of the most iconic fights of all time. 

Ahead of the first-ever heavyweight world title fight to be held on Dec. 7 as part of Ad Diriyah Season, the fighters met face-to-face for the first time since Ruiz Jr. snatched champions belts away from Joshua in a shock win in New York, back in June.

In a highly charged press conference on Wednesday at the stunning UNESCO heritage site of Diriyah, fittingly known as the ‘land of kings and heroes’ and located on the outskirts of Riyadh, the pair squared off and vowed their battle would be a classic.

Former unified heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist Joshua, who has 22 wins to 1 loss with 21 knockouts, told journalists: “It you look at my career it has all been about defining moments, it has been about giving the fans something to cherish. I want to do big things in boxing, and I want this fight to be known as one of the iconic rematches of all time.

INTERVIEW: Andy Ruiz Jr ‘blessed’ to be in Saudi Arabia ahead of Anthony Joshua December rematch 

“Our last fight was one of those defining moment for me, but I’ve learned from that and now I’m going to unleash the beast, and I shall walk away victorious. We’ve got a massive contest on our hands and I’m excited to be bringing that to a new set of fans. As an Olympic champion I know that sports fans share the same deep passion wherever they are in the world. I’m expecting there to be incredible energy from the crowd and that gives you something extra in the ring, especially when you see the passion there is for the sport in Saudi Arabia.

“For me this is about challenging myself as a man, as an athlete, and creating a moment in boxing history that no one will forget. This fight in Diriyah will be as important for the sport of boxing as it is for me.”

Ruiz  (33 wins,1 loss with 22 knockouts) unified the heavyweight championship by stopping Joshua to capture his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO world titles in one of the biggest heavyweight upsets of all time at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1. In doing so, ‘The Destroyer’ created history by becoming the first boxer of Mexican heritage to be crowned world heavyweight champion.

Our last fight was one of those defining moment for me, but I’ve learned from that and now I’m going to unleash the beast, and I shall walk away victorious.

Anthony Joshua, former unified heavyweight champion

Dubbed by his father as ‘Rocky Mexicano’, Ruiz said: “I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. I dethroned the king back in June and made history becoming the first Mexican/American champion of the world. Now I get to be the first champion to defend world heavyweight titles in the Middle East, whichever way you look at this, the Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia will go down in history, that’s a fact.

“I’m looking forward to ending his career here in Diriyah. I will show the greatness of Mexican boxing in Saudi Arabia. I thrive on taking big hits, they are just fuel for me, it is ‘go hard or go home’ with my boxing.

“I showed the world once and I will show them again. I have been working and the fans, both here in Saudi Arabia, and watching around the globe, can expect an unforgettable boxing match.”

The rematch will be part of the Diriyah season hosted by the General Sports Authority (GSA) of Saudi Arabia which will also include the second Formula E Championship to be hosted in the Kingdom.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al-Saud, Chairman of the GSA, said: “At heart Saudi Arabia is a nation of sports fans and both athletes and audiences can expect to be knocked out by the passionate reception this event will enjoy in the Kingdom.

“Sports will always be a key focus for our government. We have talented sportsmen and women, engaged spectators and an ambitious vision to develop the sports sector to the highest levels.

“We have already seen the energy created by boxing when we staged the World Boxing Super Series match last year, this landmark moment – the first World Heavyweight Title fight in the Middle East — now takes that excitement to a whole new level.”

Boxing promoter and managing Director of Matchroom, Eddie Hearn said: “June 1st, 2019 was a day that will be forever etched in boxing history. Andy Ruiz caused one of the great boxing upsets of all times as him and Anthony Joshua engaged in an epic battle in front of a sold-out MSG. The noise about the rematch has been deafening — will it happen? where will it be? who will win? Step up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will now host one of the biggest and most iconic boxing events of our generation.”

“A 16,000 purposely built stadium that will stand in Diriyah, ‘Clash on the Dunes’ will follow in the footsteps of the Rumble in the Jungle and Thrilla in Manila — the whole World will stop to watch this fight and fight fans across America will get the chance to watch it all unfold live on Sky Sports and DAZN.”

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

Updated 03 June 2020

What next for Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’

  • Restart to begin with 2 matches on June 17, to ensure every side played same number of games

LONDON: The Premier League's return is just two weeks away but there are plenty of details for the 20 clubs in the English top-flight to work out before competitive action resumes on June 17.

AFP Sport looks at what is on the agenda at the latest in a series of meetings between the clubs on Thursday.

There have been squabbles over how final league standings should be decided if the season cannot be completed but clubs need a contingency arrangement if a spike in coronavirus cases wrecks their plans.

Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table are reportedly pushing for relegation to be scrapped if the season is not completed on the field.

That still seems highly unlikely, with the English Football Association and English Football League both insisting on promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid.

A points-per-game formula is the most likely option and is part of the reason why the restart will begin with two matches on June 17, to ensure every side has played the same number of games.

Once the two outstanding games — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — have been played, all 20 sides will have nine games remaining.

No dates for other matches have yet been released, but fixtures are expected to continue from where they left off in March and be crammed into just five weeks ahead of the FA Cup final on August 1.

A long layoff, little time together in contact training and a gruelling schedule mean players' bodies will be pushed to the limits.

In an attempt to minimize injuries and fatigue, world governing body FIFA has allowed leagues to temporarily change their rules to allow five substitutes.

Chelsea have also reportedly proposed increasing the number of substitutes available from seven to nine.

However, critics have suggested those changes will simply play into the hands of the bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Premier League clubs appear to have won their battle to have games played in their own grounds rather than on neutral sites.

However, the UK's national lead for football policing confirmed last week that a "small number" of fixtures will take place at neutral venues.

That is likely to include any match that could see Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years, to try and avoid crowds gathering at Anfield.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is unconcerned by playing at neutral venues, with results from four rounds of Germany's Bundesliga showing no advantage for home sides in a closed-doors environment.

"We will not have the help from the crowd but no team will have that, so where is the advantage?" Klopp told the BBC.

"Whoever we play it is the same situation, which is why I'm not too worried about it."

The use of VAR could also be dispensed with for the rest of the season should the clubs wish to further cut the number of people required for games to go ahead.

However, the Premier League's CEO Richard Masters is keen for it to remain.

"VAR has its own social-distancing issues, but we think there is a way of completing the season with VAR," Masters told Sky Sports.