No sooner had Amir Khan dispatched Aussie fighter Billy Dib in Jeddah a few weeks ago were final negotiations underway for something bigger altogether. A first major fight in the kingdom. Albeit certainly no secret, the announcement that Khan would fight Manny Pacquiao for the world title in Saudi Arabia on November 8 was still major news for a country that has only recently taken boxing to its heart. At least it was for a few hours.
But then, the denial.
It didn’t take too long for Pacquiao s spokesperson, Fred Sternberg, to then come out and rubbish the claims that any such fight had been agreed. Now, well, who knows what’s going on? Don’t you just love boxing?
Khan made a reported $8.7m for his four round scrap with Dib – a late replacement for Neeraj Goyat, in what seemed like a relatively easy night’s work. Pacquiao, current WBA Welterweight world champion – and the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing – however, would be a different matter altogether, despite his advancing age.
But Khan is in good spirits.
Just minutes after his fourth-round stoppage victory at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah, Khan said, “I felt very comfortable in there. Obviously having a new trainer, Bones Adams, we had to work on a strategy, I slowed myself down a little bit instead of rushing all the time. I was seeing everything, making sure I was putting in the right shots, I felt very comfortable in there.”
In truth, this is the fight Khan has been aiming at for years, and was always in the plan for the second of his Saudi bouts.
“We had talks with the top ministers and Saudi Arabia is so behind boxing,” he said. They don’t just want to do one show, but many shows.”
Although there’s clearly a few bumps in the road before this one gets signed off, the contractual back and forth is simply part of modern sport, and it would be surprising if we don’t see Khan vs Pacquiao in the Kingdom before the end of the year.
Saudi’s first major boxing match, and perhaps Kahn’s last real chance at a major title.