If you think you’re excited about the rematch that sees Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua contest for the WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight titles on December 7 in Saudi Arabia, take a moment to consider the event’s promoter Eddie Hearn.
“The world will stop to watch this fight,” Hearn defiantly told The Sportsman. “It’s going to go down in history.”
This is Brit Anthony Joshua’s 24th fight, a career that was unblemished until the unfancied Ruiz Jr. stunned the boxing world by stopping him in the seventh round in June in New York City.
Since that debilitating loss that saw AJ donate his titles over to the Mexican-American at Madison Square Garden, Joshua has been training, and training hard, with some new faces in his camp.
The 30-year-old’s leaner frame has been a source of speculation that his game plan will be different in Diriyah this time around. Hearn, for the most part, discards the idea of Joshua being a completely “different fighter.”
“A better fighter. There’s only so much you can change being 24 fights in, but he has made changes,” said Hearn, “He’s going to be a lot lighter, he’s going to be a lot more focused. He’s got that spite in him.
“It doesn’t mean he’ll win.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘Wow, AJ seems really focused and almost violent.’
“That doesn’t mean you’re going to win, but the mindset is totally different.”
Hearn also conceded that Joshua, who he has been with under the Matchroom banner since AJ turned professional in 2013, underestimated his opponent in the first slog in NYC but vitally can learn from the experience of his first loss, and a loss that shook the boxing world to its core.
He’s ready for this fight, he wasn’t ready for the first fight.
“I almost don’t want him to exorcise his demons. I want him to remember the pain, the humiliation, and take that into the ring with him.
“You’ve got to feel that pain and be motivated. You’ve got to go through hell for this fight to win. You’ve got to remember the darkness that you went through during that fight [in June].
“You shouldn’t try and erase the history that’s happened in your life, because you’ve got to use that to learn and to grow.
“He’s over the defeat but it will always sit in his mind as a moment that he didn’t enjoy and that’s what he’s trying to put right on Saturday.”
A double win for Andry Ruiz Jr could ultimately be devastating to Joshua’s career, heading towards a conclusion that would have been unexpected to most a year ago. No doubt about it, the stakes are high.
“Victory makes you the king of the sport,” said Hearn, “He wants to win the world heavyweight championship. That’s the motivation to him right now in becoming a two-time heavyweight champion of the world and he’s very confident in doing so.”
Billed as the Clash on the Dunes, with the 15,000 capacity venue specially built on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al-Turaif, promoter Eddie Hearn is confident that it can live up to its potential of billing the spiritual successor to classic, culturally iconic, roll-off-the-tongue bouts of ‘The Thrilla In Manila’ and ‘Rumble In The Jungle’, in which Muhammad Ali faced Joe Frazier and George Foreman, respectively.
Can Ruiz Jr. v AJ Part II create the same magnitude as those battles in the Philippines and Zaire?
“Both [the aforementioned Ali] fights were held in controversial options at the time,” stated Hearn, reflecting on the criticism of holding perhaps the fight of 2019 in a country whose human rights violations have been well documented. “This is very similar.”
“The difference is there’s a plan in Saudi Arabia to develop the sport, and at a grass roots level as well. I’m not saying the country’s perfect. What I’m hearing [from] everybody that’s coming is having a nice experience. That’s what they keep telling me.
“We couldn’t have been treated better. [Saudi Arabia] couldn’t have done more to make it the success than it will be. They’re throwing everything at this. I can’t wait.”