People in Saudi Arabia are gearing up to watch the highly anticipated match between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr this weekend, during which the former will attempt to win back the heavyweight world title.
The "Clash on the Dunes" will take place on Dec. 7 at the UNESCO heritage site Diriyah on the edge of Riyadh. Photos of the stadium, which can accommodate 15,000 people, have been circulating all over Twitter in the past 24 hours. The arena was built from scratch exclusively for this event and was reportedly constructed in a matter of months, with the works beginning on Oct. 7, according to TalkSport.
"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," Ruiz said, according to The Daily Mail.
The event is expected to be one of the biggest sporting events to take place in the Middle East.
Overhead shots of the stadium were officially made public this week. According to Arab News, the stadium was built from almost 300 tons of steel and covers an area of 10,000 square meters. About 175 workers put in time and energy to make it happen.
Thousands of fans are expected to fly in to witness the historic fight play out.
Britain's Joshua, who lost the belts to Ruiz at their first match in New York earlier this year, expects the night to be an "incredible" one.
"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."
Joshua arrived in Saudi Arabia over the weekend and hasn't been hiding his training efforts from social media.
"It won't be ready," they said
Videos and images of the arena have been circulating all over social media
After all, it was built exclusively for the rematch ... in such a short period of time
But that doesn't mean there were no bumps along the road
Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn have been criticized for agreeing to hold the rematch in Saudi Arabia. In an article published by The Daily Mail in November, it was reported that the kingdom offered a bid of approximately $100 million to earn rights over the match. The heavyweight boxing champion was called out for choosing money over all else. The article concluded with the phrase: "In the world of boxing, money talks."
Rights groups have been urging international celebrities and artists to decline visits to the kingdom over human rights abuses. In the case of U.S.-based rapper Nicki Minaj, it worked. In a show of solidarity with women's rights, LGBTIQ+ rights, and freedom of expression, the rapper canceled her scheduled concert in the kingdom, which was set to take place on July 18, following pressure from external rights groups.
Saudi Arabia has ramped up its entertainment sector in recent years, but it hasn't all been smooth sailing. In 2017, the kingdom announced a budget allocation for the sector worth $2.67 billion under its Vision 2030 plan. This comes as the Gulf nation attempts to lure tourists into the kingdom in hopes of building a revenue-generating tourism sector. That part, despite the bumps along the road, seems to be on the right path.