Throughout the week, media outlets have been reporting that Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan will meet in the ring on April 23rd. Both fighters posted status updates on their Twitter accounts confirming the fight, and that appeared evidence enough for the bout to be declared official. We are now perhaps entering an era where matchups are formally negotiated and announced through social media.
What we may be also witnessing are fights being influenced by fan opinion. In response to a Pacquiao tweet that surveyed, “Who do you want me to fight next in the UAE?”, Amir Khan came in on top with 48% of the vote. We often hear fighters say that they’ll face the opponent that fans want to see most, but seldom does that come into actual fruition.
So with fans wanting the fight and both boxers confirming the fight, it would seem only logical for the bout to take place in April. That might be true if the fight didn’t lack the confirmation of one crucial party in the equation, which in this case is Top Rank president Bob Arum who has thus far categorically denied all rumors of a Pacquiao and Khan bout coming off.
“No,” Arum answered sternly when asked by BoxingScene.com if the fight was deemed official. “We’ll see what we see.”
This is perhaps a modified improvement from his feelings last week when he described the rumors of a Pacquiao and Khan matchup as “complete and utter bullshit.” However, what is confirmed is that the original plan of Pacquiao facing the undefeated Jeff Horn in Australia is postponed, if not canceled all together. The reason for that is because a much more lucrative offer has supposedly come in for the Filipino superstar to fight in the United Arab Emirates.
“The Australian deal is not going to happen now, because Manny is trying to get a fight done in the United Arab Emirates, and the people there favor him fighting Amir Khan,” Arum said in an interview. “Whether it will happen or not, I just don’t know, because they have to come up with a large amount of money.”
The amount comes in at a supposed $38 million, a much higher payday considering Pacquiao was reported being stuck negotiating his fee against Horn at $7 million, and in the same article alleged to have priced himself out at $20 million against Terence Crawford.
“I’m a practical man. The money in Australia wasn’t anywhere near $38 million. What do I know? We live in an alternative reality world. I don’t know what the story is,” Arum continued. “If the $38 million is real, it trumps the Australia deal. If it’s real, we will assist putting on the event, but I am not holding my breath, and I’m not making plane reservations.”
Another party skeptical of the $38 million bid is Horn’s promoter Dean Lonergan, who is still hopeful a bout with his fighter will come off later in the year.
“I think the chances of Pacquiao receiving $38 million to fight Khan in the UAE on April 23 are somewhere between slim and zero,” Lonergan said. “So far there is still no stadium booked in the UAE and still no word on who is supplying the $38 million. It’s one thing for two fighters to say they’ve reached an agreement but it’s something else entirely to find the money, set up the promotion and all the global television deals that go with it. That takes months of planning.”
Arum reportedly spoke with Pacquiao’s adviser Michael Koncz yesterday and according to Koncz, the fight has now been confirmed by all parties to take place for broadcast on May 19th, taking place live in the UAE on May 20th.
“We decided to move it to May 19 here and May 20 in the United [Arab] Emirates so we’d have time to promote it properly and make it a huge success,” Koncz told Yahoo Sports. “I have to talk to both fighters [on Wednesday] to get them to approve going in May instead of in April. I don’t think that will be any problem.”
The statement might have been strong enough to settle all the confusion surrounding the fight thus far had May 20th not been the exact date Arum stated as being impossible due to Pacquiao’s commitments to the Filipino senate.
"May 20 is a non-starter. The senate in the Philippines [in which Pacquiao serves] is in session then," Arum said. "Maybe in April or maybe June, but not May."
There has still been no official release from Arum himself, and the Top Rank promoter is due to have a meeting with Lonergan tomorrow, which will hopefully clear the air on what exactly is going on. Whatever the outcome, this sequence of events taps into an interesting development for the sport of boxing. If the fight against Khan does come off, it’s peculiar that negotiations were ironed out and publicly announced before the promoter did so. If it doesn’t, this may be instead an attempt from the Pacquiao camp to leverage a higher payday for the Australian bout by announcing the Khan fight on Twitter, a noticeable change in how purse bids are traditionally discussed.
The one thing that hasn’t really changed is that promoters and boxing advisors have said something one day, then went ahead and said the exact opposite thing on another. The difference of course is that fighters now have a voice to influence the discussion through social media, and this whole fiasco may be a precursor to what fight negotiation may look like going forward.
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