190717 Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Bahrain looks set to make good on its promise to turn the Middle East into a hub for boxing by staging a major unification title fight, potentially between WBA champion Manny Pacquiao and WBO title holder Terrence Crawford in autumn.

The proposed fight will be held at the conclusion of a groundbreaking boxing summit that will see influential industry leaders sit down together for the first time to discuss the future of the sport.

The conference is the result of the partnership between MTK Global, Bahrain’s KHK Sports and the Brave Combat Federation, the largest MMA promotion in the Middle East which was establish in 2016 by Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

Promoter Bob Arum

Veteran boxing promoter Bob Arum, the CEO of Top Rank, backed Bahrain’s vision for boxing and said he was enthusiastic about putting events in Bahrain and making the country a worldwide tourist destination.

“We hope we can get Crawford and Pacquiao in action this year and through our friends at MTK, we are in serious talks with Bahrain for doing major fights there,” said Arum in an interview with BoxingScene.com. “I would love to do some big, big events in Bahrain.”

Terence Crawford punches Amir Khan
Terrence Crawford

Pacquiao, who was formerly with Arum’s Top Rank stable and Crawford have expressed a willingness to fight, even if without a live audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let’s see what happens,” said Arum, who has promoted some of the biggest names the sport has ever seen including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Roberto Dura, Floyd Mayweather, Marvin Hagler, Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao.

“Everything is likely, everyone wants to do these big events until it comes time to put up the money. But I think with Bahrain we’ve got a good shot at getting it done.”

Pacquiao (62-7-2) has not fought since his split decision victory over Keith Thurman for the WBA Super World welterweight title last year but is still one of the top fighters in demand.

Crawford (36-0) became the WBO World welterweight champion in June 2018 when he beat Jeff Horn, the Australian who defeated Pacquiao in 2017.

Also joining Arum in his support for Bahrain’s future plans was top British promoter Frank Warren, veteran heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Briton Amir Khan and former four-weight champion Roy Jones Jr.