Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua will be the stars of the show in Riyadh tonight but they will both be answering to one main in particular – Luis Pabon. The Puerto Rican referee will oversee the blockbuster bout dubbed ‘Clash on the Dunes’ which will have the attention of the sporting world.
Most people involved in the landmark event have not previously worked in Saudi Arabia – from the main event fighters to promoter Eddie Hearn.
That sets Pabon apart, however, as he marshalled the conclusion of the super middleweight World Boxing Super Series in September 2018 between George Groves and Callum Smith.
In fact, the South American is accustomed to umpiring main-event Brits abroad with Anthony Yarde’s challenge of Sergey Kovalev in Russia this year also occurring under his eye.
Pabon’s nationality makes him a neutral referee for this, the biggest of fights, and Hearn is pleased with his appointment.
“Luis Pabon is a very, very experienced world championship referee,” Hearn told Sky Sports.
“We had within the agreement to have neutral officials. A neutral referee then a British judge, an American judge and a neutral judge.
“The governing bodies sent through recommendations for the officials, each side comes up with a few that they are happy with, then we find common ground. We are both happy with Luis Pabon and the judges.”
Last time out in Madison Square Garden, the man in blue, Mike Griffin, was pivotal to the fight’s result.
He oversaw five knockdowns in the fight and was accused of allowing Joshua more than 10 seconds’ recovery time on a couple of occasions before waving off the bout in the seventh.
The judges who will score what Pabon permits to happen in the ring will be Brit Steve Gray, American Glenn Feldman and Canadian Benoit Roussel.
The overwhelming feeling is that Ruiz Jr will have to score a stoppage victory in order to guarantee a win, with a Joshua victory in the best interests of fight broadcasters DAZN and Sky Sports.
Ruiz Jr’s trainer Manny Robles is aware of that fact and told DAZN: “All we want is a fair shake.
“We know what this situation is, and this is still the Anthony Joshua show. But all we ask is that the judges do their job and let the best man win.
He added: “I’m curious to see if he can hold Andy back for 12 rounds.
“Our game plan is not a secret. It’s up to him to stop Andy. I can honestly tell you that we’re ready to go the distance if need be.
“But, to be completely honest, we’re really not trying to go the distance because of the situation.”
Luis Pabon recent high-profile fights
Sergey Kovalev BT Anthony Yarde TKO11 – August 2019
Callum Smith BT George Groves KO7 – September 2018
Canelo Alvarez BT Liam Smith KO9 – September 2016
Gennady Golovkin BT Martin Murray TKO11 – February 2015
Wladimir Klitschko BT Alexander Povetkin UD – October 2013