LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao’s next fight will be against Amir Khan on May 19 in the United Arab Emirates (May 20 in the UAE), in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai, Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz told Yahoo Sports Tuesday following a two-hour meeting with promoter Bob Arum.
Arum had announced in January that Pacquiao, the WBO welterweight champion, would fight little known Jeff Horn in Australia in April. But Pacquiao wanted a bigger name opponent who would not only present a stiffer challenge, but would help the pay-per-view sales.
“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.”
Pacquiao received much media criticism when Horn was announced as his next opponent. On Feb. 12, he posted a poll on Twitter asking fans who they wanted to see him fight next. There were 44,815 votes, and Khan was the runaway winner with 48 percent of the votes cast. Kell Brook received 24 percent, Terence Crawford 21 percent and Horn got seven percent.
Who do you want me to fight next in the UAE?
— Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) February 12, 2017
The poll had more meaning with Koncz once he found that 86 percent of the votes came from the U.S., which is the largest pay-per-view market.
“When I saw Amir ran away with it, I figured most of the votes from from England and a lot of them came from the [UAE], but they told me that 86 percent of them were from the U.S.,” he said. “That meant a lot. Obviously, Amir’s a big name in the U.S., too, as well as in England [where he lives] and people saw it for what it is: A toss-up fight against two fast-handed guys.”
Khan hasn’t fought since a sixth-round knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez on May 7 in Las Vegas in a bout that was contested at 155 pounds. Khan has been a super lightweight for most of his career.
Koncz said he respected Khan for taking the fight.
“I saw some people on the internet criticizing Amir for getting knocked out like that, but I don’t criticize him; I applaud him for stepping up and taking the fight against a good fighter like Canelo,” Koncz said. “He went up two weight classes to take that fight, which I’ll be honest with you and tell you we wouldn’t do. We learned our lesson fighting those big guys when we fought [Antonio] Margarito [in 2010].
“That shouldn’t be held against him. He took a risk and it didn’t pan out, but he was doing great in the early part of the fight. He matches up well with Manny and like I said, it’s a 50-50 fight. I certainly think Manny will win, but he’s not guaranteed to win this by any means.”
The decision ends a bizarre several weeks in which Arum was saying one thing and Koncz and Pacquiao, who were in the Philippines, were making comments that contradicted Arum.
But after the meeting Tuesday in Arum’s Las Vegas office, Koncz said both sides are on the same page.
“We just want to do the best and the biggest fight we can, and this makes a lot of sense for so many reasons,” Koncz said. “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 PPV 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.”
The one downside for putting the bout on May 19 is that it will follow the Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. pay-per-view, which is being held May 6 in Las Vegas. That figures to be a big seller and it’s traditionally difficult to sell two pay-per-view cards in the same month.