AS IT HAPPENED: Anthony Joshua beats Andy Ruiz Jr. in Clash on the Dunes, Saudi Arabia

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Anthony Joshua wins the Clash on the Dunes with a points decision over Andy Ruiz Jr. in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. (Matchroom Boxing)
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Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua at the weigh in on Friday in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Zuhayr Al-Qahtani of Saudi Arabia in action at the Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah. (AN Photo/Ziyad Alafarj)
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Zuhayr Al-Qahtani of Saudi Arabia in action at the Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah. (AN Photo/Ziyad Alafarj)
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Zuhayr Al-Qahtani of Saudi Arabia in action at the Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah. (AN Photo/Ziyad Alafarj)
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Zuhayr Al-Qahtani of Saudi Arabia in action at the Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah. (AN Photo/Basheer Alzain Saleh)
Updated 08 December 2019

AS IT HAPPENED: Anthony Joshua beats Andy Ruiz Jr. in Clash on the Dunes, Saudi Arabia

  • Full coverage of huge night of boxing - including undercard
  • World heavyweight championship being held in Diriyah, Riyadh

RIYADH: On a rainy night in Diriyah, Anthony Joshua regained his world heavyweight titles after a unanimous points decision from the judges over Andy Ruiz Jr. An epic night of boxing in Saudi Arabia comes to an end.

You can relive all of the action with the Arab News coverage from the day below. (All times KSA)

01:40 - Joshua's mantra of "stay hungry, stay humble" on full display in his gracious post-fight speech.

01:30 - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman watching on during the historic fight in Diriyah...

01:05 - IT'S OVER - ANTHONY JOSHUA WINS BACK HIS HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE BELTS AFTER BEATING ANDY RUIZ JR. ON POINTS IN THE CLASH ON THE DUNES.

00:50 - FIGHT ACTION: It's a niggly eighth round and something has riled Joshua, Ruiz is making a real nuisance of himself and probably aware that he is behind, is coming out fighting.

00:45 - FIGHT ACTION: It is a tense affair, Joshua perhaps just edging it, but Ruiz has come out with renewed belief in the fifth round. He will believe he can hang on in there and frustrate Joshua...

00:40 - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in attendance here in Diriyah for the mega fight.

00:30 - FIGHT ACTION: Rough opening rounds for Ruiz as he tries to find his feet, Joshua lands some good punches. But he's still tentative as we end Round 3...

00:15 - FIGHT ACTION: Here we go, we're ready to go and we're fighting for the heavyweight championship - 

22:15 - CELEBRITY SPOT / FIGHT ACTION: A big roar goes up in the arena as Usher - who performed last night in Riyadh - arrives for the big fight. He's just in time to see Dillian Whyte steal his heavyweight contest on points against Poland's Mariusz Wach, in a bruising, absorbing affair...

21:30 - Absolutely no guesses who these guys are supporting. The fans, both Saudi and international, are starting to stream in now and the atmosphere is definitely starting to build up...

21:00 - FIGHT ACTION: It's another short bout as the power of Filip Hrgovic from Croatia is too much for Eric Molina, who suffers a third-round knockout and the Croatian superstar marches on!

20:45 - The victorious Saudi boxer Zuhayr Al-Qahtani had a special message for Arab News following his WBC Middle East title win...

20:30 - The fans are filing in, despite the weather, the atmosphere is building up inside and outside the Diriyah Arena.

20:20 - FIGHT ACTION: Well, that was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it stoppage in the first televised fight of the night - Mahammadrasul Majidov of Azerbaijan lands a killer blow on the UK's Tom "Not So" Little and it's all over in the second round!

19:45 - FIGHT ACTION: He's done it! Saudi Arabia's Zuhayr Al-Qahtani dominates in his WBC Middle East title bout with Omar Dusary of Kuwait, who stood his ground through the eight rounds, but was visibly a beaten man by the end. The man from Jeddah takes the plaudits and is being interviewed by Sky Sports in the middle of the ring following his win...

19:00 - Check out this fantastic illustration for Arab News created by the Sporting Press especially for the Clash on the Dunes event...

18:30 - FIGHT ACTION: And the first action of the night is complete! Boxing out of the UAE, Majid Al-Naqbi gets a stoppage in the third round as he overpowers his Georgian rival Ilia Beruashvili in his lightweight contest to move 4-0 in his career. We are officially under way...

17:50 - In case you missed it earlier, Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone is in the Kingdom and he was loving the weigh-in on Friday - he was particularly delighted with Ruiz Jr.'s choice of song for his entrance...

17:20 - There is plenty of boxing action for tonight's card - here is a run down of all the bouts we have to look forward to tonight before the main event...

16:45 - Fans attending the fight might be in for a chilly evening, as the heavens opened briefly earlier and the wind has been picking up...

16:00 - The very impressive Diriyah Arena was put together in less than a month, you can read about it here...

15:15 - There is also a considerable undercard for the Clash on the Dunes event - including Saudi Arabia's own Zuhayr Al-Qahtani who is facing Omar Dusary from Kuwait for the WBC Middle East title, and Arab News caught up with him ahead of his big night...

14:30 - The fans of Joshua were in good voice at the weigh-in, with thousands of British fans in the Kingdom to support their hero, while a vocal crowd of Mexicans and Americans were cheering for Ruiz. The atmosphere in the Diriyah Arena should be electric tonight...

14:15 - It’s not just the boxing world taking an interest in this fight in Saudi Arabia - Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho (known to be a big fan of Anthony Joshua) was asked who he thought would win tonight’s bout ...

13:45 - The boxing world held its breath on Friday night as the two heavyweight rivals faced off at Friday's weigh-in at Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh. See a full gallery from the showdown here...

13: 30 - The excitement is starting to build as we inch closer to the bell going in the Clash on the Dunes later tonight. You can read all this week's build-up to the huge fight in our dedicated Spotlight, highlights of which are below:

Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz Jr. weigh in for Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua focused on world heavyweight glory as they showcase skills at Riyadh public workout

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua tour Diriyah stadium ahead of Saudi clash


Why 2020 feels empty without a big football summer tournament

Updated 06 June 2020

Why 2020 feels empty without a big football summer tournament

  • Euro 2020 was meant to kick off on Friday. Instead, this will be the first even-numbered year without a major football competition in over six decades

DUBAI: Even-numbered years are the best ones — just ask any football fan.

But while 2020 will be remembered for many things, football — or the lack of it — will be well down a depressingly long list.

For the first time in six decades, an even-numbered year will be without a major summer football tournament.

Not an Olympic football tournament. Not a Copa America, an Africa Cup of Nations, or an AFC Asian Cup. Many of those often take place in odd-numbered years, but there will, nevertheless, be a gaping hole where a World Cup or European Championship would often be.

Every two years, the three or four weeks that straddle June and July are booked for a festival of international football. However, the coronavirus crisis has ensured that will not happen this year.

Euro 2020 and Copa America have been postponed until 2021, and though domestic competitions will return to complete an interrupted and now-prolonged 2019-20 seasons, this is quite simply no substitute for the different kind of excitement that these tournaments bring. 

In recent times it has become fashionable to see international football as inferior to club football, which in purely technical terms, it surely is. But make no mistake, these tournaments are like bookmarks in our lives, their mere mentions evoking memories of unforgettable, sun-stroked summers.

It’s in the way we reference them. World Cups are easily recalled by the name of the host country followed by the year: Mexico 86, USA 94, Germany 2006. European Championships, on the other hand, are more esoterically addressed Euro 84, Euro 96, Euro 2000. If you remember, the thinking must go, you remember.

In a different reality, we would now be looking forward to the opening match of Euro 2020 between Italy and Turkey at the Olimpico Stadium in Rome next Friday.

In a different reality, we would now be looking forward to the opening match of Euro 2020 between Italy and Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome next Friday. (EPA/File Photo)

Making plans with friends to watch the match. Organizing office sweeps. Selecting your fantasy teams.

Hotels and cafes would be preparing big screens in expectation of increased attendance by people who barely give football a second thought at any other time of the year. And they, in turn, add to the color, excitement and inclusivity of summertime football. Big tournaments are for everyone.

There’s the issue of who to support. If your country is taking part then you’re sorted. But for many orphaned football fans, those whose countries are not invited to the party (i.e. not good enough), it’s time to adopt a team. 

The World Cup brings out the usual suspects. Over the years, the likes of Brazil, Argentina, West Germany, Italy, France and England have amassed armies of fans from all corners of the globe. So have the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. 

Some will throw their allegiances behind African, Asian or Arab teams. Others for any underdog. 

Euros are no different. And while the likes of Germany, Italy or France will again be the big draws, many fans will simply support players that play for the clubs they support.

Above all, tournament football is about overindulging in the sheer amount of football on offer. Like at a brunch buffet, this is no time to nitpick over quality.

There is a modern tendency to over-analyze the standard of tournament football. Mexico 70 remains the gold standard. The 80s gave us two wonderful tournaments in Spain 82 and Mexico 86. Italia 90 was, technically speaking, a poor competition. Germany 2006 was fun, but South Africa 2010 wasn’t.

Over the years the Euros has come to be seen as a competition of higher quality than the World Cup.

The eight-team Euro 84, for those who remember it, is one of the finest tournaments of all time, lit up by Michel Platini’s genius and the emergence of Denmark’s wonderful team. Euro 2000, with 16 teams, was a joy to watch. Euro 2004 was dull.

(AFP/File Photo)

Today, there is a type of fan who sees dilution in quality with more teams taking part, who turn up their nose at early-tournament matches which include the weaker teams.

But even casting aside the lack of generosity of spirit toward nations getting a rare spot in the sun, those skeptics are still missing the point.

It is precisely the sheer volume of football that makes those tournaments so enjoyable in the group stages. Quality football can wait — three or four matches is what makes those hot summer days so memorable. 

We want plenty of goals, mistakes, red cards and controversies. We want underdogs to emerge, and players we’ve never heard of make a names for themselves. 

We want that odd shock where a footballing giant gets humbled by a no-hoper, a match that will be referenced in years to come. Or those magic moments in the group stages that sometime outshine the semifinals and finals.

We want Algeria humiliating West Germany in 1982. We want Denmark 5, Yugoslavia 0 at Euro 84. We want Morocco destroying Portugal at Mexico 86. We want Cameroon beating Diego Maradona’s Argentina at Italia 90. We want Paul Gascoigne scoring an absurd goal against Scotland at Euro 96. And Greece crashing the Euro 2004 party like no team has ever crashed a major competition before.

(Reuters/File Photo)

When it comes to summer tournaments, you have to sit through, and embrace, the quantity in order to be rewarded with the quality.

Once we’re into the knockout stages, matches rapidly start to disappear into thin air.

After the eight matches in the round of 16 — which had followed the 32 World Cup or 24 Euro group fixtures — you’re left with only seven, and those are spread over nine or 10 days. The binging days are gone.

Watching the hour-glass drain, you wistfully look back on those dead rubber group matches, even as the best teams prepare for the business end of the tournament.

In theory, at least, this is where the highest-quality football will be played between the best teams left in the competition. 

That doesn’t always happen. But when quarterfinals and semifinals deliver, they deliver big. And more than likely it will involve one version of Germany or another.

Italy’s 4-3 win over West Germany in the 1970 World Cup semifinal is dubbed the Game of the Century for good reason.

(AFP/File Photo)

There is arguably the greatest World Cup match of all time; a Paolo Rossi inspired Italy stunning Brazil 3-2 at Spain 82. A few days later, West Germany overcame France on penalties after extra time in the semifinals, the 3-3 draw one of the most dramatic and controversial matches of all time.

In turn, France’s 3-2 win over Portugal in the Euro 84 semifinals is a match for the ages, one that has to be seen to be believed. 

At Mexico 86, Diego Maradona produced a once-in-a-lifetime performance against England, scoring two of the World Cup’s most controversial and greatest goals minutes apart. Three days later, he conjured up an arguably better two-goal performance against Belgium as Argentina progressed to the final, where they eventually beat, you’ve guessed it, West Germany.

A decade later — in a repeat of the Italia 90 last four clash — England and Germany played out another excruciatingly tense Euro 96 semifinal at Wembley, before you know who progressed on penalties. Again.

In 2006, Italy beat hosts Germany 2-0 in a superlative World Cup semifinal, easily superior to their final win over France.

(YouTube Screenshot)

And perhaps the most jaw-dropping World Cup story of all time came when Germany annihilated Brazil 7-1 in front of their own fans in 2014.

Finals, over the decades, have increasingly failed to live up to those heights.

The eight World Cup finals from 1958 to 1986 delivered an astonishing 38 goals. The eight since have contributed only 16, with six of those coming two years ago in France.

Three of the last Euro finals, meanwhile, have finished 1-0.

Finals are at once a celebration and lament.

It’s what the whole summer has built up to. And then, just like that, its all over and you’re left feeling like it’s New Year’s day with a long, joyless January ahead.

But this year we will be denied even that. Sure, there is the resumption of domestic league football across Europe and the rest of the world. But played behind closed doors and clearly a means to finishing the season as quickly as possible, they have all the sterile excitement of a Zoom business meeting compared with the summer festival feel of a World Cup or a Euro.

Sadly, in the future, we will never refer to this big tournament match or that from the summer of 2020. It’s not the end of the world; that is seemingly happening elsewhere. But it does feel a bit odd.