ANTHONY JOSHUA is set to get his pick of referee and judges for his December 7 rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.
After losing the original thriller on June 1 in New York, the 30-year-old is aiming to reclaim his WBA, IBF and WBO belts in the boxing backwater of Saudi Arabia.
The scorecards in the Big Apple were irrelevant, as the Mexican dropped AJ four times before Canadian ref Michael Griffin waved the fight off in the seventh.
But the Englishman is expected to box more cautiously in the return, having appeared to have slimmed down in recent photos, and might have to rely on the officials after 36 minutes of action.
In the original bout, Doncaster’s Michael Alexander and New Yorker Julie Lederman had Joshua losing 57-56, after six completed rounds.
Canada-based Italian Pasquale Procopio had the Watford star winning the bout, despite looking concussed for the final four rounds, 57-56.
All three officials gave Joshua the opening two sessions and then had to hand Ruiz Jr a 10-8 round in the third, after he climbed off the canvas and floored Joshua twice.
But Procopio went against his two colleagues by awarding AJ the fourth, when Ruiz took his foot off the gas and seemed to be letting the 2012 Olympic gold winner recover.
Fight promoter Eddie Hearn explained to SunSport how the sanctioning bodies would decide the Saudi judges and ref and revealed Team Joshua is happy with the contenders.
The Matchroom boss said: “Everything from the first fight is mirrored for the second in Saudi.
“It’s one Brit, one American and one neutral judging and a neutral ref, there can’t be a British or American ref, it’s a neutral panel.
“The governing bodies sent a list of officials with a set amount of world-title fight experience, we looked at it and stated the ones we would accept and Andy Ruiz and his team did the same.
“It is not finalised yet but it looks like the ones we accepted are the same ones Ruiz accepted.”
Ruiz labelled Josh a quitter for being stopped on his feet, as opposed to the floor, in the seventh Madison Square Garden round.
But AJ, who spat out his gumshield on his final trip to the deck, insisted it was middleman Griffin who confused him.
He said: “The only reason I didn’t walk out of the corner in the seventh round was because my gumshield was not in and I was waiting for the referee to put it in my mouth but he waved it off.
“The main thing is I am still fighting, no quit. It would be worse if I did not come back, that is true failure.”
Griffin gave AJ every chance to cling on to his belts and the elite-level ref defended Joshua’s honour as well as his decision.
Griffin said: “I was looking in his eyes and he was struggling with something.
“He was not quitting, he was looking for more time.
“He turned his back on me, I picked up his mouthpiece. I don’t think in any sense he was quitting the fight, he just wanted those seconds but the rules don’t allow me to give him those seconds.”