The Dubai International Stadium has emerged as the chosen host for Manny Pacquiao’s proposed clash with Amir Khan, Sport360 understands.
There are still many hurdles to clear before the fight is set in stone but sources close to the deal have confirmed the 30,000-capacity stadium is the preferred stage.
And it’s a venue familiar to Khan with the 30-year-old having watched Pakistan take on the West Indies in a T20 clash last September.
However, discussions are still ongoing as to when the fight will take place. Khan has agreed to the recently mooted May 20 date, though, that night is proving problematic for Pacquiao.
The 38-year-old is scheduled to fulfill his duties in the Philippines Senate, which will be in session in May, and it is understood his preference would be to fight on the initially slated April 23 date – just under seven weeks away.
But Pacquiao’s Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN that April is out of the question.
“Manny is not going to fight in April,” he said.
“I don’t even know if May is feasible. I haven’t even talked to Manny. All it is right now is a discussion. It’s like somebody saying, ‘Hey, let’s build a new stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas.’ You can say anything, but we’re a long way from it being done.”
A further complication is the start of Ramadan, which is expected to start on May 26, with Khan a dedicated Muslim who traditionally does not fight in and round that time.
Pacquiao is a senator in the Philippines House of Representatives and ended a short stay in retirement to focus on those duties to take the WBO welterweight title from Jessie Vargas last November.
Khan, meanwhile, has not fought since a sickening sixth-round knockout from Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and returned to training in the New Year after undergoing major hand surgery.
The Dubai International Stadium, which opened in 2009, is situated in Sports City and has played host to Test, ODI, and T20 international cricket as well as the Indian Premier League and Pakistan Super League, plus has been a venue for the likes of well renowned music artists such as Drake.
It is also known for its spectacular system of floodlights named the ‘Ring of Fire’.
Amir Khan has agreed to fight Manny Pacquiao on May 20 in the UAE after the Filipino icon’s team swapped their initial bout date from April 23.
Michael Koncz, the long-time adviser to Pacquiao, confirmed to Yahoo Sports the clash will go ahead, should the two fighters agree to the altered date, following a two-hour meeting with his charge’s promoter Bob Arum.
And sources within Khan’s camp told Sport360 the 30-year-old is happy to fight on May 20. No venue has been announced with momentum gathering for either Dubai or Abu Dhabi to stage the fight.
And both camps expect the bout agreements to be signed and sealed within the next week or two.
Explaining the reasoning for the May 20 date, Koncz told Yahoo Sports: “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.”
He added: “We just want to do the best and the biggest fight we can, and this makes a lot of sense for so many reasons. We’ll be able to properly promote it and while it will be a Friday in the U.S., it will be a Saturday there. We were going to do it originally on a Sunday there, but that’s the start of their work week and we didn’t feel at the end of the day that would make as much sense.
“Their weekends are Friday-Saturday and putting the fight on Sunday when everyone was going back to work seemed like it might be a problem.
“Friday is a different night [than most Pay-Per-View cards are held in the U.S.], but remember how big the Friday Night Fights used to be. We have the time now to promote it properly and I think we have the right fight, so I think it will do well.”
One issue with the May 20 date is that Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s hotly-anticipated clash with Mexican rival Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. opens up the month on May 6. It means Pacquiao and Khan will have to follow a fight which is expected to sell well on PPV in the US.
Grouping PPVs together so closely is considered a risk and with the traditional Saturday night outing also off the cards, sales could be hampered.
But, with talk of $38 million being offered to Pacquiao from the UAE, the PPV sales may only be seen as a top up to the Filpino’s purse.
Former world champions Dave Haye and Tony Bellew will meet in an absorbing heavyweight match on Saturday night (early Sunday morning UAE time) in London.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this eagerly anticipated bout.
WHEN IS IT ON?
Saturday, March 4 (early Sunday, March 5 UAE time)
WHERE IS THE FIGHT ON?
The O2 Arena, London
WHAT TIME WILL IT START?
Approximately 10.30-11pm GMT (2.30-3am UAE time)
HOW CAN I WATCH IT?
WHICH FIGHTER HAS A BETTER RECORD?