Joshua v Ruiz: Fighters meet in Saudi Arabia for first time on press tour

Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua will speak at three news conferences in three days
Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua will speak at three news conferences in three days

Andy Ruiz Jr said he wanted more than “15 minutes of fame” as he faced Anthony Joshua for the first time in the run-up to their 7 December rematch.

Manny Robles, trainer of Ruiz, warned he now wanted to “turn the page” after the first shock win and said “there will be changes” to his fighter.

“We know Joshua is a great fighter and will bring it so that is the reason why we need to be at our best,” said Robles. “You can expect a better Ruiz – faster, leaner, stronger than the first time around.”

The fighters shared words and smiles as they posed for head-to-head photos in Diriyah and will stage further news conferences in New York and London before the weekend.

Staging the event in Saudi Arabia has prompted criticism, with Amnesty International stating the country has an “abysmal human rights record”.

In a news conference which featured a laser show and contained praise for the Kingdom from dignitaries, no questions were posed from reporters as Hearn led the questioning from the top table.

Hearn said: “This is such a monumental occasion for our sport. Sometimes our sport is very narrow minded – there is a whole world out there. This is such a monumental opportunity for the sport.

“Some people may think from the outside this was a strange destination. They also said that for the Rumble in the Jungle and Thrilla in Manila. This is an event that will go down in history just like those iconic moments in our sport.”

The news conference was held outdoors in Diriyah
The news conference was held outdoors in Diriyah

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has said he wants to reform the country both in social and economic terms as part of his ‘Vision 2030’ plan – but he has also been strongly linked with the murder of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Social reforms have included lifting the ban on women being able to drive,while high-profile pop stars have been enticed to perform in Saudi Arabia in order to enhance the country’s image.

At the news conference, Prince Abdulaziz Al Saud, chairman of the country’s General Sports Authority, said: “We want to reflect to the world what Saudi Arabia is and hopefully everyone can come and enjoy this match.

“Anyone who wants to come to Saudi is more than welcome to come and watch. I think it will boost the interest in boxing in general. Boxing is an old sport but relatively new for Saudi Arabia. We would like to open the interest in boxing in the Kingdom, encourage the youth and have an ecosystem around it.”

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