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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Manny Pacquiao v Amir Khan in UAE: Venue decided and confirmation expected in coming days

A fight has moved a step closer after Amir Khan agreed to change the bout to May 20, with those close to negotiations saying confirmation is expected within the next week.
A fight between Manny Pacquiao, left, and Amir Khan, right, in the UAE is edging closer to being confirmed. Martin Willetts / Getty Images
A fight between Manny Pacquiao, left, and Amir Khan, right, in the UAE is edging closer to being confirmed. Martin Willetts / Getty Images

A fight in the UAE between Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan has moved a step closer after the British boxer agreed to change the bout to May 20, with those close to negotiations saying confirmation it will take place in the Emirates is expected within the next week.

Both Pacquiao and Khan announced this week on their respective Twitter accounts that they would meet on April 23, and despite no venue being confirmed, the UAE was understood to be the frontrunner to play host. Pacquiao’s adviser, Michael Koncz, later told The National the fight would indeed take place in the country next month.

However, on Wednesday, Koncz said he was instead working towards May 20 following a meeting in Las Vegas with promoter Bob Arum, the CEO of Top Rank, and that he would seek approval from both Pacquiao and Khan.

Khan’s representatives have since confirmed to The National that the two-time world champion has agreed to the revised date and that they are hopeful of finalising the deal between the fighters in the coming days. Khan, who is currently training in New York, will then travel to Dubai in mid-March to officially launch the promotion to the event.

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Both camps have decided on a May 20 fight so they would have more time to properly publicise it. It also gives Khan, who last fought in May and has since had surgery on his hand, more time to prepare and, crucially for the British-born Muslim, falls before Ramadan.

It was felt the bout would best take place on a Saturday in the UAE, not early Sunday morning as originally planned, given the fact Sunday in the Emirates represents the beginning of the working week. The time difference in the United States, a major pay-per-view market, is another factor. A venue has been decided, with hope it would be signed off late Thursday or early Friday. Four venues have been considered, all of which are open air.

“Friday is a different night [than most PPV cards are held in the US], but remember how big the Friday Night Fights used to be?” Koncz had told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “We have the time now to promote it properly and I think we have the right fight, so I think it will do well.”

One issue that still needs resolved is the financial backing for the fight. Negotiations are ongoing — the bout was originally priced at $38 million (Dh139.5m) — although both Koncz and Khan’s camp remain confident the finances will be made available. They are convinced a fight of this magnitude, the first to be staged in the UAE, will generate significant interest inside and outside the country.

Speaking to ABS-CBN on Wednesday, Arum raised his concerns regarding investment, saying: “In order for the fight to happen in the UAE, funds have to be produced to enable the fight to happen and I am hoping that those funds would materialise.

“However, if they don’t, we have to do something else. But Michael is optimistic the funds will materialise, and once they do, then Top Rank will roll up its sleeves and help put on a tremendous worldwide event. If they don’t materialise, then we’ll have to search for a viable alternative.

“It is not accurate to say that the fight is on. It is also not accurate to say that the fight won’t happen. We don’t know. We have to wait and see if the funds materialise.”

Arum also told ESPN.com he was not sure if a May fight was feasible, and that there was “still a lot of work to do”. He said: “As of now, other than the fact that Michael and I are on the same page as far as the fight not happening in April and that we hope to make something happen, who knows? I have absolutely nothing to report definitively.

“This could all go away like the breeze,” he added. “If you can find the money, if you can find that $38 million, I’ll give you 10 per cent, make it 20 per cent. The point is a lot of these deals take time to put together, to find money and everything. We’re not there.”

Pacquiao, 38, acts as a senator in the Philippines House of Representatives, but returned to the ring last November, sealing a unanimous-decision victory against Jessie Vargas following a short retirement to pursue his career in politics. His record stands at 59-6-2.

Khan, Pacquiao’s former training partner, suffered a sixth-round knockout to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez last time out. The Englishman, 30, has 31 victories and four defeats.​

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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