Heavyweight boxer Andy Ruiz. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Hall of Fame boxing promoter Frank Warren has sprung to the defence of Andy Ruiz Jr after rival promoter Eddie Hearn warned of taking “legal action” against the Mexican-American fighter should he not fight Britain’s former champion Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia this December.

Hearn, who represents Joshua’s boxing interests, announced earlier this week that the historic city of Diriyah, near Riyadh, would be the venue for the eagerly anticipated rematch between Ruiz and the British heavyweight.

However, Ruiz took to social media to insist that he had not signed a contract and was not interested in fighting in the Middle East,

During a live video streamed on Instagram he said: “I have not signed anything yet, we are negotiating everything,” Ruiz, who holds the IBF, WBO and WBA belts after stunning Joshua at Madison Square Garden in June, told ESPN Mexico.

“They want the fight to be there (in Saudi Arabia) but we have to see where we negotiate with my team.

“I would like it in New York again, where I beat him. I’m giving him a chance to try and beat me and if he wants the belts, he has to do it there.”

Hearn turned to Sky Sports television as the war of words intensified.

“They are both signed at the same time. There is no other contract,” he said.

“We have to let (Ruiz) know the time, date and venue which we have done. That’s it.

“His choice is to have a legal battle that could put him out of boxing for years, or to defend his belts for a lot of money against a guy he has already beaten.”

But Warren, who as a veteran of the game has promoted a high-pedigree stable of boxers such Prince Naseem Hamed, Frank Bruno, Tyson Fury and Amir Khan, rubbished Hearn’s claims and says Ruiz has every right to refuse to travel to Saudi Arabia, as the US government has advised American citizens not to travel there.

Speaking on Thursday’s Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, Warren said: “Eddie has a point that he’s got a contract with him, but he’s got a real problem in saying he’ll be stripped of his titles.

“That’s not up to him at all, the titles belong to the governing bodies. All this nonsense about having his titles taken away from him, that is nonsense.

“You can be sued for breach of contract, and he may have a point there, but it’s not an easy case, that’s for sure.

“He has a very, very strong position for not travelling.”

Warren has also backed Ruiz to beat Joshua again, despite the majority of British bookmakers making the Brit a huge 3/10 favourite to the Mexican’s 9/4 odds.

“You can only look at what you see last time, and Ruiz took AJ’s best shot and got off the floor and took the fight to him,” he said,

“I don’t see much of a different outcome this time around.”