Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua 2: Inside the 15,000 purpose-built Diriyah Arena, the Saudi Arabia venue for title fight

Anthony Joshua faces a crunch rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr on December 7 in what is being billed as the ‘Clash on the Dunes’.

Challenger AJ arrived in Saudi Arabia last weekend, with the champion touching down in the desert shortly afterwards.

The heavyweight pair will go head-to-head on 7 December in the newly-constructed Diriyah Arena, where Joshua is bidding to win back the IBF, WBA and WBO titles which Ruiz took from him in stunning fashion at Madison Square Garden in June.

Where is the venue?

In Diriyah, a suburb in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Historically, the town was the original home of the Saudi royal family.

The purpose-built arena will stage the title fight and amazingly, work on the 15,000 seater venue only began two months before the fight was due to commence.

The purpose-built arena has been constructed from scratch

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The purpose-built arena has been constructed from scratch

Why is it being held there?

There has been a lot of controversy to say the least about this event being staged here.

Saudi Arabia was chosen to host the bout ahead of rival bids from Cardiff’s Principality Stadium and Dubai.

The country has previously hosted Amir Khan’s winning contest against Billy Dib in July, while Callum Smith’s World Boxing Super Series title win against George Groves was also staged there in September 2018.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International have highlighted their concerns about the event being hosted in this country, owing to the country’s ‘abysmal’ human rights record.

The Diriyah Arena will be ready in time for the fight on December 7

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The Diriyah Arena will be ready in time for the fight on December 7

Heavy restrictions on freedom of expression and women’s rights have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law.

Saudi Arabia has sought to stage sporting and entertainment events in a bid to attract visitors and move away from its oil-dependent economy.

Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, have repeatedly tried to deflect criticism of holding the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight rematch in Diriyah, on the outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

They claim that the country is reforming for the better, a view that isn’t held by Amnesty international.


What is the venue like?

Eddie Hearn has described the venue as ‘utterly breathtaking’.

The Diriyah Arena was built by 175 staff, who began work on 7 October, with more than 295 tonnes of steel used in the production of the stadium.

It’s certainly a unique venue, with this site consisting of three stands, with the fourth side – an altogether a smaller stand – disconnected from the rest.

That will house the changing rooms, VIP/hospitality areas and TV studios.

The fighters will enter the arena from this smaller stand, in what will be a gladiator style entrance, as the 15,000 fans in attendance roar Joshua and Ruiz on for this blockbuster showdown.

The new stadium for Ruiz vs Joshua II was considered underwhelming by some fans

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The new stadium for Ruiz vs Joshua II was considered underwhelming by some fans

Joshua has been to see it already and can’t wait.

“It’s going to be an incredible night and I’m thrilled so many of my fans are going to be there, particularly from the UK,” he said.

“It’ll definitely be a night people will tell their grandchildren they were at, one of those iconic evenings of boxing. Everyone from Saudi has been brilliant to work with.”

Ruiz was equally amazed by the work that has been done.

“It’s amazing man, it’s crazy how they built everything in a month and a half. It’s amazing to be fighting over here, it’s going to be really historic and I’m planning to make history over here.”

It will take a month to deconstruct after the bout, with impressively 95 per cent of the material being re-used to stage other events.

More than 2,000 staff will be working on the evening of the mega fight to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Fans will be welcomed through this entrance

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Fans will be welcomed through this entrance

Fans will approach the Diriyah Arena via the Diriyah Oasis, a huge sprawling entertainment hub which offers activities such as ice-skating outdoors, sky diving, jet skiing and zip lining.

The Diriyah Oasis is split into the four zones – Nature, Imagination, Reflection, Excitement – giving families a great place to come together.

At the heart of it all lies an astonishing grand installation by world-renowned Italian artist, Edoardo Tresoldi.

Granted, it’s not going to compare to the likes of the MGM Grand nor Madison Square Garden, but it should still be a momentous occasion for all who will be in attendance.


All you need to know about Joshua vs Ruiz 2, including date, time and undercard

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Boxing – talkSPORT

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