Why is the biggest heavyweight showdown of the year happening in Saudi Arabia?

The world is gearing up for a massive heavyweight showdown between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua on December the 7th. Revenge will be on the agenda for Joshua after Ruiz Jr. won their first fight at Madison Square Garden back in June 2019. This time though, neither fighter will enjoy the benefits of a home ground advantage, with the fight scheduled to take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

If you’re thinking that  Saudi Arabia is a bizarre place for these two fighters to square up and fight then you’re not altogether wrong. In fact, it came as a huge shock when Eddie Hearn announced that the bout would be taking place in the Middle East but it didn’t take that long to figure out why this had all transpired the way it has.

Rumour has it that Hearn has pocketed a whopping £33 million for bringing the fight to Saudi Arabia and even if that sum is slightly exaggerated, it won’t be far off that figure. The 40-year-old promoter fiercely defended the decision but he isn’t alone in pulling strings to arrange a massive payday with the WWE, European Tour and Formula E all having hosted events in the Kingdom.

The young Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman is desperate for the world to know that his country is reforming into a more moderate state, and is using these mega sporting events as a way of showing that Saudi Arabia is open to the world and ready for business. Call it good business or clever exposure but that hasn’t stopped quite a few concerns being raised within the boxing community and professional sports in general.

As far as the spectacle goes and putting the controversy of the young Crown Prince to one side, it promises to be a box office fight in a phenomenal arena. It took just 56 days to build the one-off gladiator-style arena that seats 15,000 people and will come down once the fight is finished. Andy Ruiz Jr. has promised to make history again but the jury amongst boxing fans in the world is still out as far as the outcome goes.

Naturally, the fight itself has garnered worldwide attention with no one too sure what will happen after Ruiz Jr. shocked the world in New York six months ago. Granted, the latest boxing odds show his odds have greatly improved as he now sits at 2/1 to retain the belts he won off Joshua.

No matter how hard you try though, it’s almost impossible to imagine that happening again but after all the talk of Joshua being labeled a quitter, you’re left wondering if the Watford-born fighter perhaps has a soft underbelly. As mentioned, it’s impossible to say with any certainty who will triumph in the desert

Whatever happens in the ring on the night there’s no doubt that the Saudis will feel that they are the big winners when all is said and done. Rome wasn’t built in a day and perceptions of places can change over time so we will have to wait and see what the verdict is after the bout but make no mistake, this is a huge coup for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.