By Jake Donovan
Eddie Hearn couldn’t help but chuckle when hearing suggestions from others—including Oscar de la Hoya—that a planned rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua was suddenly in jeopardy.
The claims couldn’t be further from the truth, as the heavyweight sequel is now down to two final hosting destinations.
“We really hope to announce something by (this) week,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com. “It’s down to Madison Square Garden (in New York City) or Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, where AJ has fought before to massive crowds.
“Make no mistake, the fight is very much happening. I don’t know where these people come up with this stuff.”
Ruiz (33-1, 22KOs) scored by far the biggest heavyweight upset of the 21st century following a 7th round stoppage of England’s Joshua (22-1, 21KOs) this past June at Madison Square Garden to claim a slew of heavyweight titles. The event served as Joshua’s first fight in the United States, but the celebration giving way to Murphy’s Law where everything that could go wrong, did in fact go wrong.
The show took an initial hit when originally scheduled opponent, unbeaten Brooklyn native Jarrell Miller tested positive for multiple banned substances in March. The discovery didn’t surface until mid-April, at which point Hearn and company were left with less than seven weeks to secure a new opponent.
It turned out to be perfect timing for Ruiz, who scored a 5th round knockout of Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20 live on Fox and was willing to turn right around to accept the opportunity of a lifetime. The California-based heavyweight seized the moment in a big way, recovering from a 3rd round knockdown to score four of his own to become the first boxer of Mexican descent to lay claim to the heavyweight crown.
Ruiz now stands to earn an eight-figure payday for Part II versus Joshua, who wasted little time in exercising an immediate rematch clause. The pre-fight contract signed by Ruiz gave Joshua full control over where a second fight would take place, with destinations sought throughout the United Kingdom—particularly England and Wales—and New York City.
Joshua has emerged as the sport’s biggest box-office attractions, with his four fights prior to Ruiz averaging more than 80,000 fans at the likes of London’s Wembley Stadium and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
Wembley Stadium played host to Joshua’s last win—a 7th round knockout of Alexander Povetkin, which played to 80,000 in attendance last September. It also hosted Joshua’s most-storied victory to date, trading knockdowns with former World champion Wladimir Klitschko en route to an April 2017 11th round knockdown in front of a record-breaking crowd of 90,000.
However, the outdoor venue was ruled out given the targeted time frame as plans call for Ruiz-Joshua II to take place somewhere between November 16-December 14. That would leave Principality Stadium as the final UK contender, as the state-of-the-art venue has a retractable roof to help avoid the frigid late autumn climate.
Joshua has twice fought at the stadium. He scored a 10th round knockout of Carlos Takam in Oct. 2017 in front of 75,000 fans, followed by a title-unification win over then-unbeaten Joseph Parker last March, with the 78,000 in attendance setting a new record for largest indoor crowd for a boxing event.
Still, a desire to return to the scene of the crime and reverse the worst moment of his boxing career has the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former heavyweight ruler leaning towards a second straight trip to the Big Apple.
“For my own selfish reasons, I’d love for the fight to take place in the UK,” notes Hearn, who has long served as England’s leading promoter.
The bulk of his recent business, however, have taken place in the U.S. given his role as the primary content provider for sports streaming service DAZN, which presented the first fight with Ruiz. It will also be the platform of choice for the rematch, regardless of location.
“AJ really wants to return to Madison Square Garden,” states Hearn, who admits that a stateside location is also in the best interest of those at DAZN, who are funding the fight. “But it’s down to those two places, MSG and Cardiff, which we expect to have done shortly.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: JakeNDaBox