The oil-rich, rapidly modernising Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosts arguably the biggest fight of the year, this Saturday night, when Anthony Joshua attempts to reclaim his position on the heavyweight throne by avenging his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Junior.
Diriyah, on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh, appeared initially to be one of the less likely destinations for the highly-anticipated rematch. The desert town is largely renowned for its royal heritage and is a place of profound historical significance in many aspects for the House of Saud. However, it seems that Diriyah is now being positioned to become an increasingly relevant setting in the modern sporting world, under the direction of the Kingdom’s ambitious heir apparent, Crown-Prince Muhammad bin-Salman.
Naturally, both fighters will be looking to add their own chapters to Diriyah’s storied history by showcasing their skills in front of a global audience of millions, in addition to the thousands of spectators assembled at the purpose-built Diriyah Arena.
When Ruiz dethroned Joshua six months ago in New York City, it sent shockwaves around the world. After a fairly uneventful opening couple of rounds, the pair dramatically traded knockdowns in the third before Ruiz once again was able to send the reeling champion to the canvas with his ruthless combination punching. Boxing fans watched on in disbelief as the challenger, a 25/1 pre-fight underdog, simply would not be denied and continued bullying the Londoner around the ring before eventually stopping him in the seventh.
The Mexican-American now has another opportunity to remove any doubt and propel his career to even greater heights with a repeat victory over Joshua, someone who was seemingly poised to become a superstar in the sport, and was widely expected to dispatch of Ruiz with relative ease before pursuing other challenges.
Joshua will be hoping to resurrect his lofty aspirations with a comfortable victory on Saturday night. Boxing fans tend to have short memories, and a lopsided points win – or an emphatic early stoppage, for that matter – would go some way towards ensuring that night in June is retrospectively disregarded as a minor blip in the Watford native’s rise to the top.
However, the somewhat one-sided nature of his loss suggests that this will not be so easy to do. Indeed, the way he lost has led many to speculate that Ruiz is someone who simply has Joshua’s number, and means that many are inclined towards picking ‘The Destroyer’ to successfully do the double over his British counterpart.
This, of course, remains to be seen and is precisely why the Ruiz-Joshua sequel is so intriguing. Will Ruiz’s movement enable him to get into position to tee off on Joshua, as he was able to so often in their first encounter? Will Joshua be able to nullify Ruiz’s threat with long-range attacks? Will he perhaps be able to force a stoppage against the tenacious Ruiz, if he is able to hurt him once again? Time will tell. Ultimately, all things considered, it is reasonable to expect Joshua to emerge triumphant on points after twelve rounds – perhaps controversially – in a close and competitive affair.
An intriguing heavyweight showdown also takes place on the undercard between Alexander Povetkin and former cruiserweight title challenger Michael Hunter in a WBA title eliminator. Both fighters are coming off wins, but it is Hunter who is riding the lengthier winning streak. The American’s youth, athleticism and educated boxing should enable him to negate Povetkin’s punching power and shrewd shot-selection to claim victory over the seasoned veteran; someone who has seen better days, despite carrying potent danger in both hands.
Fan favourite Dillian Whyte, who has expressed his desire in no uncertain terms to target the main event’s winner, will be returning to the ring against Polish giant Mariusz Wach. Whyte’s impressive unanimous-decision victory over Colombian contender Oscar Rivas in July was immediately marred by a positive VADA test. Expect Wach – a stubborn, teak-tough operator who has a penchant for spoiling and smothering – to possibly provide a slightly tougher test than expected for Whyte, but for the Jamaican-born fighter to ultimately prevail on the scorecard.
Undefeated Croatian heavyweight contender and former Olympian Filip Hrgovic will also be looking to make a statement on the big stage with a dominant performance over former heavyweight title challenger Eric ‘Drummer-Boy’ Molina.
Article by: Navi Singh
Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________