British boxing fans have once again proven their loyalty to UK born, former world heavyweight champion, and current boxer extraordinaire Anthony Joshua. How? By purchasing half of the 11,026 match tickets sold in anticipation of his return to his former glory.
Held at the edge of the Saudi capital of Riyadh at the UNESCO heritage site in Diriyah on Dec. 7, the "Clash on the Dunes" boxing match is expected to be written down in history as one of the greatest. This explains why fans from 65 countries have bought tickets to watch history unfold. Some have even dared to book a 30,000-kilometer round-trip from Fiji, according to Saudi Press Agency.
"The matches in which Anthony Joshua participated achieved record sales around the world, whether in London or New York," said Frank Smith, CEO of Matchroom Boxing.
Or in this case, Saudi Arabia. Smith expects this to be a really exciting match and one of the biggest in the world. With only 3,970 seats left out of the 15,000 seats and four days to go before the fight, he may be right.
As fans already know, this is a re-match between Anthony 'AJ' Joshua and the victor of the last fight, Mexican-American and current heavyweight world champion, Andy 'The Destroyer' Ruiz Jr.
However, Joshua is expected to win this fight in an attempt to regain the three world championship titles he lost during June's fight against Ruiz in New York. The slap in the face of losing all his titles forced Joshua to reassess his fighting stance, coming back with more "fire in the belly" and less swagger.
"I am confident I can be victorious and when I am I will tell everyone of how I went wrong," Joshua told the BBC.
However, Ruiz is feeling no pressure regarding the fight to come as he believes his dreams have already come true. He wants "the legacy of Andy Ruiz Jr." to be spread, but it seems he's more than happy with what he's achieved so far.
"I have been enjoying life. This is just the beginning," Ruiz told BBC Sport, "I am blessed with all that came my way."
In fact, he believes Joshua is the one under fire because all eyes are on whether he will take back his titles or be defeated once again.
The area, made of 300 tons of steel and spanning 10,000m², impressed hundreds of people including Frank Smith and Anthony Joshua. The latter was given a tour of the location not long after landing in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 24.
"I'm thrilled so many of my fans are going to be there, particularly from the UK," said Joshua. "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."
About 175 workers put in time and energy to build not only the main event arena but also a temporary hospitality structure with high spec interiors for VIP guests. In addition, 2,000 members of staff are expected to be on sight to keep things running smoothly on fight night.
Diriyah Season is proving successful
The event is taking place as part of the month-long Diriyah Season, one of the many Saudi Seasons to be taking place this year as part of the kingdom's Vision 2030. The scheme aims at relieving the kingdom's economy from its reliance on oil revenues by focusing on entertainment as a means to encourage tourists to visit.
Diriyah Season is hosting a handful of major sporting events, including:
- Formula E: Held on Nov. 22 and 23 for the Diriyah Season launch.
- The Diriyah Equestrian Festival: Taking place from Dec. 12 to 14, and then again from Dec. 19 to 21, where an elite group of riders will compete to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
- The Diriyah Tennis Cup: Playing out from Dec. 12 to 14, bringing to the kingdom eight of the world's best male tennis players.
The Season will also include entertainment in the form of:
- A music festival: Starting Nov. 22 all the way until Dec. 14.
- The Diriyah Oasis: Open from Nov. 28 till Dec. 22.
- Jalsat Diriyah: A series of Arabic musical events bringing together the most prominent stars of the Arab world.
- Bujairi Experience: A celebration of top Saudi, Emirati, and Arab designers at the Diriyah Design area.