Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr 2: World heavyweight title set for grand tour of exotic locations
If you live in Fiji, Bahrain or Iceland there is a chance that a world title fight, probably at heavyweight, will be coming your way very soon.
In the Seventies boxing moved all over the globe for some of its biggest fights, moved from New York for the tax benefits and, on a couple of infamous occasions, to keep lawyers in divorce cases guessing at earnings.
Venezuela, Jamaica, Japan, Zaire and the Philippines all had major world heavyweight title fights in arguably the sport’s finest decade. The one-time greatest show on earth has only ever been back to Tokyo since that unforgettable decade.
By the start of the Eighties the Las Vegas machine had developed, promoters were paid impressive site fees to deliver their boxers, and just about every major fight has been in one of the casino facilities in the Nevada desert ever since.
There is a very real chance that fights over the next few years – big enough fights to matter – will go on the road to new territories; the scheduled rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia could be the start of a grand tour of exotic and hopefully not controversial locations.
There was a false start in 2013 at a casino in Macau, when Bob Arum, the world’s greatest promoter, put on several shows and threatened to move his offices from Las Vegas to the gambling retreat in the South China Sea. The desire for fights swiftly dwindled, the gamblers went back to the tables and Arum stayed in Las Vegas.
The Saudi dilemma only exists because of the financial guarantees, which are not the same as promises in the boxing business, and just about any other government in the world will now see that a heavyweight championship fight can be bought; a simple deposit will be enough for Lagos, Cairo and Doha to get in the business.
In the 1960s Las Vegas was the exotic endgame for heavyweight title fights, which seemed to ricochet between New York, Houston and Miami. The world of boxing has changed, the “global vision of boxing is shifting” – Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn’s words – and that means anywhere with a few million dollars spare is a contender.