‘Clash on the Dunes’ will make boxing history, vow Ruiz, Joshua

Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr., left, and Britain’s Anthony Joshua came face to face in Ad Diriyah for the first time since their world title fight in New York in June. (AN photo)
Updated 10 September 2019

‘Clash on the Dunes’ will make boxing history, vow Ruiz, Joshua

  • Stage is set for the first-ever world heavyweight title fight in the Kingdom
  • Fighters square off at press conference in the historic Ad Diriyah city

RIYADH: Boxing history will be written in the sands of Saudi Arabia as Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua promise the colossal “Clash on the Dunes” will go down as one of the most iconic fights of all time. 

Ahead of the first-ever heavyweight world title fight to be held on Dec. 7 as part of Ad Diriyah Season, the fighters met face-to-face for the first time since Ruiz Jr. snatched champions belts away from Joshua in a shock win in New York, back in June.

In a highly charged press conference on Wednesday at the stunning UNESCO heritage site of Diriyah, fittingly known as the ‘land of kings and heroes’ and located on the outskirts of Riyadh, the pair squared off and vowed their battle would be a classic.

Former unified heavyweight champion and Olympic gold medalist Joshua, who has 22 wins to 1 loss with 21 knockouts, told journalists: “It you look at my career it has all been about defining moments, it has been about giving the fans something to cherish. I want to do big things in boxing, and I want this fight to be known as one of the iconic rematches of all time.

INTERVIEW: Andy Ruiz Jr ‘blessed’ to be in Saudi Arabia ahead of Anthony Joshua December rematch 

“Our last fight was one of those defining moment for me, but I’ve learned from that and now I’m going to unleash the beast, and I shall walk away victorious. We’ve got a massive contest on our hands and I’m excited to be bringing that to a new set of fans. As an Olympic champion I know that sports fans share the same deep passion wherever they are in the world. I’m expecting there to be incredible energy from the crowd and that gives you something extra in the ring, especially when you see the passion there is for the sport in Saudi Arabia.

“For me this is about challenging myself as a man, as an athlete, and creating a moment in boxing history that no one will forget. This fight in Diriyah will be as important for the sport of boxing as it is for me.”

Ruiz  (33 wins,1 loss with 22 knockouts) unified the heavyweight championship by stopping Joshua to capture his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO world titles in one of the biggest heavyweight upsets of all time at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1. In doing so, ‘The Destroyer’ created history by becoming the first boxer of Mexican heritage to be crowned world heavyweight champion.

Our last fight was one of those defining moment for me, but I’ve learned from that and now I’m going to unleash the beast, and I shall walk away victorious.

Anthony Joshua, former unified heavyweight champion

Dubbed by his father as ‘Rocky Mexicano’, Ruiz said: “I’ve said this before, and I will say it again. I dethroned the king back in June and made history becoming the first Mexican/American champion of the world. Now I get to be the first champion to defend world heavyweight titles in the Middle East, whichever way you look at this, the Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia will go down in history, that’s a fact.

“I’m looking forward to ending his career here in Diriyah. I will show the greatness of Mexican boxing in Saudi Arabia. I thrive on taking big hits, they are just fuel for me, it is ‘go hard or go home’ with my boxing.

“I showed the world once and I will show them again. I have been working and the fans, both here in Saudi Arabia, and watching around the globe, can expect an unforgettable boxing match.”

The rematch will be part of the Diriyah season hosted by the General Sports Authority (GSA) of Saudi Arabia which will also include the second Formula E Championship to be hosted in the Kingdom.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki AlFaisal Al-Saud, Chairman of the GSA, said: “At heart Saudi Arabia is a nation of sports fans and both athletes and audiences can expect to be knocked out by the passionate reception this event will enjoy in the Kingdom.

“Sports will always be a key focus for our government. We have talented sportsmen and women, engaged spectators and an ambitious vision to develop the sports sector to the highest levels.

“We have already seen the energy created by boxing when we staged the World Boxing Super Series match last year, this landmark moment – the first World Heavyweight Title fight in the Middle East — now takes that excitement to a whole new level.”

Boxing promoter and managing Director of Matchroom, Eddie Hearn said: “June 1st, 2019 was a day that will be forever etched in boxing history. Andy Ruiz caused one of the great boxing upsets of all times as him and Anthony Joshua engaged in an epic battle in front of a sold-out MSG. The noise about the rematch has been deafening — will it happen? where will it be? who will win? Step up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will now host one of the biggest and most iconic boxing events of our generation.”

“A 16,000 purposely built stadium that will stand in Diriyah, ‘Clash on the Dunes’ will follow in the footsteps of the Rumble in the Jungle and Thrilla in Manila — the whole World will stop to watch this fight and fight fans across America will get the chance to watch it all unfold live on Sky Sports and DAZN.”

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

Updated 18 February 2020

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

  • Headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire ensured the win

LONDON: Manchester United threw open the race for the final Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League by beating fourth-place Chelsea 2-0 thanks to headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire on Monday.
With 12 games remaining, seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, with the team finishing fifth also set to earn a place in next season’s Champions League following UEFA’s decision to punish Man City for serious breaches of financial regulations by handing the English champions a two-year European ban.
Martial glanced in a header off a right-wing cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka to give United the lead in the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge, before Maguire planted home a corner from January signing Bruno Fernandes in the 66th.
Maguire, United’s captain, was perhaps fortunate to still be on the field, with the match officials opting not to punish the England defender for appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi after tumbling off the playing surface in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him but I felt like he was going to fall on me and the natural reaction was to straighten my leg so that if he was to fall on me, to hold him up,” Maguire said. “It probably looks worse than it was.
“I did catch him ... but I knew at the time I had no intent to hurt him or kick him.”
Chelsea was on the wrong end of two other decisions by VAR, firstly disallowing a volleyed goal by Kurt Zouma in the 56th because of a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on United left back Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta seemed to have been pushed a split-second earlier by Fred.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out by VAR for a tight offside, leaving Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looking thoroughly glum as he sat in his technical area.
Chelsea has long been in fourth place, but has only won three of its last 11 games in the league to give a slew of rivals clubs hope of catching up.
One of them is United, which climbed to seventh place with this win — three points behind Chelsea and two adrift of fifth-place Tottenham.
“This season, we have been far too inconsistent,” Maguire said. “We have won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool, but we have let ourselves down against the teams where the pressure is on to break them down.”
Injury problems are starting to bite at Chelsea, too. Top scorer Tammy Abraham and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi missed the game because of injury, while central midfielder N’Golo Kante lasted 11 minutes before hobbling off. Center back Andreas Christensen didn’t come out for the second half after sustaining a knock to the head late in the first period, just before Martial beat the Denmark defender to a header for the first goal.
Lampard’s main gripe, though, was his team’s failure to finish off chances once again. Batshuayi was the biggest culprit, spurning two great chances in the first half in his first start in the league this season.
“We are fourth because of some of the good stuff we’ve done and because of the nature of the league, everyone taking points off each other,” Lampard said. “But there’s a lot of work to do because you can see the problem — that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like a broken record. We have to put things to bed by scoring goals.”
Chelsea hosts Tottenham on Saturday and would finally get overtaken with another loss.
“The season starts here,” Lampard said.
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who signed for United on deadline day in the January transfer window, came on in second-half stoppage time for his debut and had a late chance saved by Willy Caballero, who again started in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Two players struck the post from free kicks in the second half, Fernandes for United and Mason Mount for Chelsea.