Andy Ruiz Jr. Agrees to Heavyweight Title Rematch in Saudi Arabia, Joshua Favored to Regain Belt
Posted on: August 25, 2019, 02:00h.
Last updated on: August 23, 2019, 05:33h.
Andy Ruiz Jr. has agreed to fight Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7, where the Mexican fighter will try to upset the former champion for the second time this year.
Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) comes into the fight as a -305 favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) being given +215 odds to win the rematch.
Joshua Invokes Rematch Clause After Shock Loss
Ruiz was also the underdog heading into the first fight between the two heavyweights on June 1. In fact, few gave him any chance at all of handing Joshua his first loss, as DraftKings had the then WBA, IBF, IBO, and WBF champion as a massive -3335 favorite.
But Ruiz shocked the world, coming back from being knocked down in the third round to score a total of four knockdowns himself, including two in the seventh round that finished the fight. That made the 29-year-old the first boxer of Mexican descent to win a world heavyweight title, and threw him into the middle of an increasingly muddied picture at the top of the division.
Before Ruiz could have the chance to take on another challenger, however, there was the matter of the rematch clause that had been included in his contract for the first fight. Not only did it guarantee Joshua a shot to get his title back if Ruiz should beat him, but it gave the former champion full control over choosing where and when a second fight would take place.
Ruiz Gets Paid to Fight in Saudi Arabia
That led to plenty of drama, as while Joshua held all the contractual cards, Ruiz did have a measure of leverage thanks to being the recognized champion. While there was talk that Joshua might try to put the fight in the UK, Ruiz said he would demand $50 million to fight in Joshua’s backyard, far more than the approximately $8 million guaranteed in the original contract.
The drama intensified earlier this month, when Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said that the rematch would take place in Saudi Arabia. That drew the ire of Ruiz, who balked at the idea during a live Instagram chat.
Yes, we do got the rematch, but it’s gonna be on my terms,” Ruiz said in the live video. “AJ, he’s scared. Hell yeah, why do you think he’s over there, trying to make the fight in Saudi Arabia?”
The decision to hold the fight in Saudi Arabia was always going to be controversial. The country has tried to use sports to improve its international image, but organizations have been under severe pressure not to do business there ever since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. According to The Athletic, Ruiz had concerns over the safety of him and his team while in the country, as well as logistical concerns about how the fight would be organized.
Whether those fears were legitimate or simply a bargaining ploy, offering Ruiz more money appeared to get the job done, with The Athletic saying the champion will now receive a guaranteed package of about $10 million.
The Other Champions
In typical boxing fashion, there’s currently nothing undisputed about who can really lay claim to the heavyweight championship of the world. Two other undefeated champions have upcoming fights, with lineal title holder Tyson Fury (-3335) expected to dispatch the relatively unknown Otto Wallin (+950) in September, while FanDuel Sportsbook has WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder (-650) as a heavy favorite over contender Luis Ortiz (+440) in what is planned to be a November fight.
Assuming they both win, the two champions are expected to have a rematch of their 2018 draw sometime next year, with Fury (-139) installed as a slight favorite over Wilder (+105) at DraftKings for that potential meeting.