Dubai: Amir Khan wants his bout with former MMA fighter Neeraj Goyat in Saudi Arabia next month to bring India and Pakistan closer together, and he is urging boxing fans from both countries to get behind the plan.
The former unified world welterweight champion, a British Pakistani and a Muslim, sees his fight with India’s Neeraj Goyat in Jeddah on July 12 as an opportunity to prove that sport can break down barriers between countries.
Pakistan Prime Minister and former cricket captain Imran Khan will attend the event at King Abdullah Sports City, and the boxer’s sponsors in Dubai say he is determined that fight fans from both countries, especially those in Saudi and other Middle East countries, will come together.
Omar Jackson, partner at private equity firm Berkeley Assets, said: “Amir is very serious about this, and that has obviously influenced the decision of the Pakistani Prime Minister to attend the fight.”
The company introduced Khan as its brand ambassador in Dubai last December and is additionally sponsoring him for the Saudi fight, as it did for his controversial loss to WBO welterweight world champion Terence Crawford in New York City in April.
“The match up has created great interest among Indian and Pakistani fight fans, especially those in Saudi and other parts of the region who will be in Jeddah,” said Jackson, who will be ringside in Jeddah as he was in New York. “Amir wants them all to come together as boxing fans, enjoy the occasion, and help to spread some good will.”
While Goyat is unknown outside India, having won 11 and drawn two of his 16 bouts, Khan will not be taking him lightly, particularly after seeing overwhelming favourite and triple word title holder Anthony Joshua suffer a shock defeat to John Ruiz.
“Things can go wrong, and we all saw what happened with Anthony Joshua getting knocked out by a fighter people thought he’d destroy, so that’s why I have to bring my top game to Jeddah,” he said. “I can’t afford to make any mistakes.”