x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pacquiao's promoters keen to push through fight in Abu Dhabi

Adviser to the eight-division world champion says the Filipino is keen to fight in the UAE capital, but money is not the problem, it is just the time zone factor.

Manny Pacquiao at his training camp in Baguio in the northern Philippines as he prepares to face ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on May 7.
Manny Pacquiao at his training camp in Baguio in the northern Philippines as he prepares to face ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on May 7.

BAGUIO, PHILIPPINES // Manny Pacquiao's adviser pronounced himself "very hopeful" that the Filipino boxing star will fight someday in Abu Dhabi, while Bob Arum, the renowned promoter, effused over the prospect while grappling with the time-zone issue.

The two men spoke last night in the city of Baguio in the northern Philippines, the location for Pacquiao's high-altitude camp where the eight-division world champion is preparing to oppose the American veteran Shane Mosley in Las Vegas on May 7.

"The focal point is, I've been there, and the people were fabulous to me," said Mike Koncz, the adviser who travelled to Abu Dhabi last year, met with sport authorities and even rode a camel.

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"Obviously the Filipinos there were thrilled about it. We want to take Manny around so people who wouldn't have the opportunity to fly to America can get a chance to see Manny. I'm very hopeful. I'm optimistic and I intend to push it from my end."

Arum, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the chief executive of Top Rank promotions which represents Pacquiao, visited Dubai in 2008 for the opening of the Atlantis resort and took a drive to Abu Dhabi.

"You know, Abu Dhabi is doing great things in the world," he said.

"The arrangement they have with New York University to establish a campus demonstrates that. It would be a great privilege on our part to have Manny Pacquiao do a championship fight in Abu Dhabi because there are so many Filipinos in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, which is so close by.

"It would be absolutely incredible for all the Filipino workers for Manny to do a fight in Abu Dhabi."

Koncz said he had only a "short window" for negotiating last autumn and that the "economics have to be right" but said, "I don't think we were that far apart."

In addition to meeting with a Singaporean group as Pacquiao's global appeal rises, he said, he plans to meet with the UAE ambassador in Manila. Of the UAE, Koncz said, "Manny would be excited to go there."

Arum, whose boxing promotions across three decades include fights for Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, "Sugar" Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Evander Holyfield, George Foreman and Oscar De La Hoya, spotted only one potential snag.

"We can work out the money," he said.

"The only problem is that in order for it to work economically, the fight would have to be held in conjunction with New York time because that's where the big revenue is in pay-per-view [television].

"Which would mean that generally takes place at 11 on a Saturday night, which would mean it would have to take place in the early hours, at 6 or 7 on a Sunday morning" in Abu Dhabi.

"Would people be willing to come out at that early hour of morning to watch a boxing match? That's the question," he said.

Yet that oddity does have precedent, as Arum noted. When Ali and Joe Frazier fought the famed "Thrilla in Manila" in October 1975, the opening bell rang at 10.45am local time in order to accommodate major television markets on the opposite side of the globe.

And when Ali fought Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle" prior to that in Zaire in 1974, that fight began at 5am Kinshasa time to draw American viewers.

"Again, that would have to be an adjustment that would have to be made," Arum said, "and I am not aware enough to know whether that's possible."

Remarking about having visited Emirates Palace hotel among other sites, he said, "You know, all of it would be great. And it would be great for the world if we could hold an event there. But the only problem is the time."

As for when such an occasion might occur, though, it would appear surely beyond 2011.

Standing on Monday beside the ring inside the hotel where the man known as the "Pac-Man" trains, Arum outlined possibilities for a fight for later in the autumn of 2011 to complete Pacquiao's year.

One possibility entails a third meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez, the Mexican, who has fought Pacquiao twice gamely, to a draw in 2004 and a gruelling 12-round decision in Pacquiao's favour in 2008.

Certainty did appear on other fronts.

Arum revels in the exposure for Pacquiao coming in a pre-bout feature on the major United States network CBS. And after seeing Pacquiao train here, the 79-year-old sage had an unequivocal conclusion: "Boy, he looks great. The speed!"

cculpepper@thenational.ae