Manny Pacquiao
In this file photo taken late on June 6, 2019 shows Manny Pacquiao (left) training at a gym in Manila, ahead of his World Boxing Association title bout next month against Keith Thurman in Las Vegas. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Eight-division boxing world champion and reigning WBA Welterweight world champion Manny ‘Pac-Man’ Pacquiao’s presence will have the most dynamic footprint on the UAE sporting calendar this year, according to promoters who are planning the Filipino boxer’s second visit to the country later this summer.

Pacquiao, who landed in Los Angeles earlier this week to prepare for his July 22 bout against undefeated American Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman, has been confirmed for a fun exhibition game with the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) at the end of September.

As per reports emerging from the Philippines, the Davao Occidental Tigers and the Imus Bandera are the two teams confirmed for the regular schedule of the Lakandula Cup to be held in Dubai on September 27 and 28. As per information released to the media, the Batangas City Athletics-Tanduay side is among the strongest contenders to occupy the third slot in the Dubai competition.

“From our experience, the appeal of Manny Pacquiao cuts across all nationalities and countries. He belongs to humanity and we have seen people from all over the world try to have just a glimpse of him when he visited the UAE last [in November 2015],” Dunstan Rozairo, Director of organisers and promoters DJMC Events told Gulf News.

“Manny has the ability to reach out to everyone. He is a top-class sportsman and a wonderful human being with the capacity to touch lives everywhere he goes. I’ve known so many Arabs who are genuine Manny fans. They simply love him for his exploits in the ring.”

A brainchild of Pacquiao, the MPBL is also making plans of entering neighbouring Oman in the near future. Considered among the fastest-growing sporting events in the Philippines, the league has expanded to 31 from an initial ten teams in under three years.

“Though we are in the initial stages of planning we can sense the excitement,” David John, Managing Director, DJMC Events, said.

“I think this basketball series in Dubai will have a great significance especially since we are having it during this year of tolerance. People love and adore Manny and they will want to be there simply to be part of something historical.”

Organisers are expected to finalise the third team in the competition early next week, while the venue will be made known latest by the end of the month.

Pacquiao will be challenging Thurman for the WBA (Super) Welterweight world championship at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 22. The 40-year old Pacquiao began a training camp in Manila and resumed his training earlier this week at the Wildcard Boxing Gym in California, under long-time trainer Freddie Roach.

This will be Pacquiao’s second bout in the US since capturing the WBA’s secondary world title against Lucas Matthysse in Malaysia last year. Pacquiao (61-7-2, 39 KO) defended that title successfully against Adrien Broner, also in Las Vegas, in January.

The Tigers, supported by Cocolife, emerged South division champions of the MPBL Datu Cup while having a solid fan base in the Mindanao region. The Bandera, on the other hand, is sure to attract overseas Filipino workers, especially with the presence of actor Gerald Anderson and 2009 PBA MVP Jayjay Helterbrand on their roster.