UAE connection to Manny Pacquiao v Floyd Mayweather? Promoter’s claim a lofty one

The chairman of a US-based promotions outfit has made waves by claiming a UAE-based group are willing to offer nearly US$200 million to make the fight happen.
Floyd Mayweather is 47-0 in his boxing career. Frederic J Brown / AFP
Floyd Mayweather is 47-0 in his boxing career. Frederic J Brown / AFP

The president and CEO of a US-based promotions outfit claims a group in the UAE are willing to pay nearly US$200 million (Dh734.6m) to finally get Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in a ring together.

The executive, M Akbar Muhammad, has told the boxing website boxingscene.com the group have offered Floyd Mayweather Jr’s Mayweather Promotions $110m to participate in the fight, with “the combined purses offered approaching $200m”.

But it is unclear what group inside the Emirates Muhammad would be representing or whether such an offer would be made with the expectation of staging the fight in the UAE. The realistic chances of any deal coming together seem murky, at best, as well.

“I’ve been instructed by the group to do whatever it takes to bring this long-awaited and eagerly anticipated fight to fruition. There’s absolutely no doubt that each fighter, individually, will receive more money than any other boxer has in the past,” Muhammad told the site.

According to his public LinkedIn page, Muhammad was a senior vice president with Top Rank Boxing promotions, the group that represents Pacquiao, from 1979-1991, before founding his own Akbar Productions organisation. He has also worked in the past with Don King Productions, according to a 1997 Las Vegas Sun report.

His record at bringing high-profile fights to fruition is spotty, though.

Muhammad was reported by the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2002 to be trying to stage a Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson heavyweight title fight in Nigeria which never materialised. The Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation also reported in 2003 Akbar, with another promoter named Tiamho Rauf, were aiming to stage a Roy Jones Jr title fight in Nairobi, which never happened.

It is not the first time Muhammad has apparently made claims about a high-profile boxing event in the Middle East, as well.

He told the website examiner.com in 2011 “we are far down the road and an announcement is coming very soon” about a major event in the region.

“I would like to sponsor a Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather fight in the Middle East very soon,” he reportedly said over three years ago.

Muhammad was involved in an attempt to stage a Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight in Dubai around five years ago, which Tyson pulled out of.

According to a 1995 report from the New York Times, Muhammad was part of an unsuccessful effort to represent Tyson then.

Nonetheless, Muhammad has stated emphatically his intention both for partnering with Mayweather’s production company and in bringing high-profile fights here.

“We also envision that future fight cards in this part of the world, regardless if Mr Mayweather fights on them or not, will be done with Mayweather Promotions as the lead promoter,” he told boxingscene.

“There is no ambiguity or conjecture about the ability and motivation of this group. That’s evidenced by the purse amount and the promotional involvement.”

Muhammad was a manager of five world champion boxers earlier in his career, including the WBA welterweight champion Donald Curry in the 1980s. His career dates back to a relationship with Muhammad Ali and included helping launch the Top Rank Boxing programme, which ran for 16 years on ESPN.

In an interview with The National’s Omar Al Raisi in February, Mayweather expressed reluctance at fighting in Dubai.

“I don’t know that I would want to fight one of my last fights there. But, again, anything is possible,” he said.

To date, the only title fight staged in the UAE remains the WBC strawweight title bout fought in June last year in Dubai between champion Xiong Zhao Zong of China, who retained his title, and challenger Denver Cuello of the Philippines. Chris Eubank and Camilo Alarcon fought in Dubai in 1997, and Michael Moorer fought Shelby Gross in Dubai in 2008.

Amir Khan and Devon Alexander were rumoured last June to be arranging a fight in Dubai but that never materialised.

In May this year Dubai-based promoter Prince Amir Shafipour also claimed he could pull off staging Mayweather-Pacquiao, telling Gulf News in an interview, “I am currently working with a major boxing promoter in the USA, who is connected to both the Pacquiao and Mayweather camps, and who has the capacity to help me pull this off.”

Top Rank chief Bob Arum later dismissed Shafipour’s claim as a “scam”.

Correction: The article originally stated Muhammad “eventually became a senior vice president” at Top Rank Boxing and that he is “chairman” of Akbar Productions. It also indicated he was involved in an attempt to stage Tyson-Holyfield in Abu Dhabi, rather than Dubai.

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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