Manny Pacquiao open to fighting in Dubai next year, with Amir Khan a potential opponent

The Filipino boxer was speaking at Dubai Sports Council on Thursday as he prepares to headline this weekend’s Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) event at Hamdan Sports Complex

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Manny Pacquiao says he is open to fighting in Dubai next year, with the boxing star suggesting he could reopen negotiations with Amir Khan regarding a possible bout.

The Filipino, the current WBA welterweight champion, was speaking at Dubai Sports Council on Thursday as he prepares to headline this weekend’s Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) event at Hamdan Sports Complex. The founder of the MPBL, the 40-year-old will play two exhibition matches across Friday and Saturday.

Pacquiao last fought in July when he defeated the previously unbeaten Keith Thurman by split decision in Las Vegas, and said Thursday that he would like to return to Dubai in future to hold a fight.

When pressed later about the details, and the recently opened Coca-Cola Arena as a potential venue, Pacquiao said: “I’m planning for next year; trying to make it for next year with a possible opponent. Especially Amir Khan wants to fight me. We will talk again. It would be a good fight.”

Khan, 32, claimed in July that a fight between the former sparring partners had been confirmed for November 8 in Saudi Arabia, although Pacquiao quickly rejected the idea there was any such deal in place. The British boxer then backtracked, saying he was given the wrong information.

The pair have been tipped to fight many times before, with a proposed bout in 2017, provisionally scheduled to take place in Dubai, never materialising.

Khan’s most recent competitive outing was in Saudi in July, when he stopped Australia’s Billy Dib in the fourth round of their WBC International Welterweight title bout.

Earlier on Thursday, while a guest on Virgin Radio, Pacquiao was played an audio clip from Khan asking the eight-division world champion if he would be interested in a fight in future. Khan said he had no doubt the fight would sell, with “interest” reportedly in the Middle East, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Pacquiao, though, has still one more bout in his three-fight contract with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), which he signed last October before taking on Adrien Broner in January and Thurman this summer.

This week, undefeated PBC stablemate Errol Spence Jr said a clash between him and Pacquiao would "definitely happen" in 2020, should the IBF champion get past WBC belt-holder Shawn Porter – as expected – in Los Angeles this weekend.

Upon listening to the Khan clip on Virgin Radio, Pacquiao said: “We can discuss that, a fight between us. I have a commitment for my next fight - one fight only. But after that we can talk. No problem."

Pacquiao would not confirm his next opponent, saying he did not know if a rematch against Floyd Mayweather Jr was in the pipeline. Pacquiao lost on points to the unbeaten American in 2015, in the richest fight in boxing history, later revealing he entered the fight with a serious shoulder injury.

Speculation regarding another meeting has ramped up recently, with the two exchanging figurative jabs on social media. Mayweather, 50-0, retired for a third time in 2017.

Asked at about the possibility of Mayweather-Pacquiao II, the Filipino star said: “My people are talking to his people; they’re talking to each other. We don’t know what the developments are, because I don’t have an update yet.”

In Dubai for the first time since 2016, Pacquiao said he had been impressed by the emirate’s development and that he was interested in buying property there so he could visit more often.

He plans to expand further the semi-professional MPBL, with “Dubai Invasion 2019” marking the competition’s first foray into the Middle East. This weekend’s event will feature regular-season matches between inaugural champions Batangas City Athletics, Imus Bandera and Davao Occidental Tigers, while a number of Filipino celebrities will also compete.

“It’s an honour to bring the MPBL to Dubai,” Pacquiao said. ‘We’re really thankful to the Dubai Sports Council and all the officials for inviting us here. We really appreciate your warm welcome.

“I’m hoping that not only basketball, but in the future my boxing fight will be here. I’m so thankful and I’d like to invite everyone, especially all the Filipinos who are working here in Dubai, to enjoy and please watch the game.”