International Sports

Joshua vs Ruiz heavyweight title rematch in doubt as Mexican boxer says 'I've not signed anything'

Key Points
  • The World Heavyweight title boxing rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua has been set for Diriyah in Saudi Arabia for December 7.
  • Mexican fighter Ruiz was a massive underdog when he first beat Joshua at Madison Square Garden in June to claim three of the four major heavyweight titles.
  • Decision to stage in the rematch in Saudi Arabia has drawn criticism from human rights groups including Amnesty International.
Andy Ruiz, Jr. is seen on June 4, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Hollywood To You/Star Max | GC Images | Getty Images

World Heavyweight boxing champion Andy Ruiz has cast doubt on whether his title rematch with former champ Anthony Joshua, scheduled for December in Saudi Arabia will take place, saying Wednesday: "I have not signed anything yet".

Earlier this week, Joshua's Promoter and Managing Director of Matchroom Boxing Eddie Hearn told CNBC that everything was agreed from all parties for the fight to be staged at a purpose built outdoor venue in Diriyah. However, despite Hearn threatening legal action if Ruiz doesn't fulfil his obligations, the Mexian has now been disputing that claim.

"They want the fight to be there (in Saudi Arabia) but we have to see where we negotiate with my team," said Ruiz. "I would like it in New York again, where I beat him. I'm giving him a chance to try and beat me and if he wants the belts, he has to do it there."

Hearn and former champion Joshua are on something of a rebuilding mission since his disastrous U.S. fight debut at Madison Square Garden in June. On that noisy New York night, Ruiz shocked the boxing world by beating the previously undefeated Brit to take the WBA, IBF and WBO Heavyweight titles.

Ruiz, who made around $7 million dollars for the first fight, appears bullish that a deal can still be struck and fully expects to a similar outcome to the first fight.

"I think he's going to want to run a bit more, to move, but he's too big, he's got a lot of muscle and it's going to be very difficult for him," he said.

Managing director of Matchroom Boxing, Eddie Hearn, told CNBC that hosting the fight in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia will "change boxing forever," dismissing concerns over the country's human rights record.

"This is a decision we didn't take lightly, we knew it would come with criticism," said Hearn at the official first press conference in London on Monday.

"A lot of it has been untrue in terms of the event. All men and women will be welcome to attend."

The decision to take a fight of such magnitude to the Middle East has not been welcomed by human rights organizations, who have urged Joshua to question the motives of the Saudi authorities. Amnesty International has said it believes the country is responsible for "sportswashing" in an effort to deflect attention from allegations of an oppressive regime.

Heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua.
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Shortly after the fight was announced, Amnesty International's Felix Jakens said Joshua should "inform himself of the human rights situation and be prepared to speak out about Saudi Arabia's abysmal human rights record."

Hearn was keen to point out that not only will anyone purchasing a ticket be automatically issued with a 30-day visa to use in the country, it's also not the first major sporting event in the Arab state.

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), golf's European Tour and motorsport's Formula E have all hosted major events in Saudi Arabia during the past year. In the case of WWE, none of its female roster of wrestlers were allowed to compete in the country and Hearn was vague over any possible restrictions affecting the event's undercard for December 7.

"They are ongoing discussions. The fighter we would have there is (Unified Lightweight Champion) Katie Taylor. She's due to fight in November though, so I'm not sure if that's going to fit with her schedule," said Hearn.

The promoter also confirmed this fight will be the most financially lucrative he's ever put on and will provide each fighter with their biggest payday to date.

It's been estimated it took as much as $100 million from local Saudi Arabian backers to take the fight to Diriyah, although Hearn claimed there were other offers from elsewhere in the Middle East which were worth more.