So, the date and location of the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua rematch have been set. The odd couple pairing of big men will take place on Dec. 7 in, of all places, Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, due in great part to Ruiz’s desire to have the bout take place at a neutral site.

Well, I hate to break it to Sr. Ruiz, but there is no neutral site for his championship rematch with Anthony Joshua. 

From the moment his hand was raised in victory at Madison Square Garden, there were plans in place to put those three belts he won back around Joshua’s waist. Joshua is seen as a billion-dollar asset by a lot of very wealthy, powerful people who are too far into the AJ business to back out right now. 

You already see the Joshua comeback redemption story being first-drafted. 

Joshua wasn’t focused. He was at 40%. His mind wasn’t in boxing. But…now…he’s back to basics, surrounding himself with hardcore, old school gym rats, rededicating himself to learning the craft, even redesigning his body to better suit the sport. 

There’s also the slightest bit of “I kinda, sorta didn’t really lose…I make no excuses…but here’s an excuse” BS in the air. 

In a recent interview with JD Sports in the UK, Joshua went way out there in Excuse, but No Excuse Land with a pathetic stab at blaming his stoppage loss on confusion over referee Michael Griffin’s non-decision about replacing his mouthpiece. 

“My gum shield was out on the floor, so I walked back to the corner and he’s counting… He [referee Michael Griffin] said ‘walk forward’ so I walked two steps forward and he’s holding my belt, he’s kind of pushed my belt back so I put my arms on the ropes…I thought he was going to put my gum shield in my mouth or he was going to call the corner over to do it…Then straight after he pushed me back in the corner he just called off the fight, but the gum shield wasn’t in my mouth…If you haven’t put the gum shield in my mouth and asked me if I’m ready to fight, how can you call it off? When the person isn’t fully ready. It’s like telling someone they can’t fight when they only have one glove on, they haven’t had the chance to fight…That was the whole point. Even though it was an uphill struggle, I would always get up and be in his face. I just wanted to get up and stay in as long as I could…I’d rather go out on my back than the referee stopping it. I think the referee should have put the gum shield in my mouth.”

By the time December 7 rolls around, the Ruiz-Joshua story will be told a lot differently than what it was during and immediately after the fight. 

The truth is that Joshua got beat up, beat down, and had his will completely taken from him by an opponent who, on that night, was better in every possible way. And, despite the strong words from Joshua now about “whooping” Ruiz even in Tijuana, even if Ruiz’s uncle were the ref, the reality is that Joshua meekly relinquished everything in the Ruiz fight—and seemed almost cuckold-like in how oddly at ease he was at losing. 

But none of the reality of what happened back on June 1 will matter before and during the rematch. All the money and all the powerful players behind the scenes will be leaning heavily on the playing field to tilt things in Joshua’s favor. Even after Joshua’s upset, the money is still with him and there’s more business to be had in a recycled, reconstructed Joshua than in Ruiz’s charming back story and “everyman” Rocky-to-riches tale. 

Ruiz appears to be fighting back against this dynamic in the only way he possibly can—by holding out for a larger payday than the $9 million guaranteed to him in the rematch clause.

Now that a boatload of dirty, human-rights-violating Saudi money has been dumped on the event, the champ wants a bigger cut of the loot and he’s smart for wanting the bigger payout with everything working against him (although not-so-smart for not having the foresight to leave that money amount blank when initially signing the rematch clause). If he’s going to get hijacked and buried under revisionist history, he should at least cram his pockets with as much cash as he can hold. 

Ruiz’s only fair shot at Joshua came in his first fight with the mega-million Brit—and only because nobody thought he had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.

Saudi Arabia will not be neutral ground for this fight. Nowhere in the world would be neutral ground. Ruiz better be even more prepared this time around than last time– because, now, it’s not just him against Joshua, it’s him against Joshua AND the business of boxing.

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