Manny Pacquiao was given a warm welcome at Dubai Sports Council. Image Credit: Organisers

Dubai: Dubai will be Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao’s next destination for a bout.

The current WBA welterweight champion, whose last fight against unbeaten Keith Thurman in Las Vegas ended in a split decision in favour of the Filipino in July, admitted that he could possibly end up against British former unified light-welterweight world champion Amir Khan in Dubai, any time during 2020.

“I am planning for next year. Trying to make it for next year with a possible opponent, especially Amir Khan, who says he wants to fight me. We will talk again and it will be a good fight,” Pacquiao told media at a press conference at the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) on Thursday.

“We are negotiating for a fight in Dubai, and I am hoping that a fight can happen here in the future,” he added.

Khan had claimed recently that a fight between the former two sparring partners had been confirmed for November 8 in Saudi Arabia.

But the Pacquiao camp was quick to reject this while insisting that nothing seriously had been spoken by either camps. Khan was quick to admit that he had been fed with wrong information.

Starting in 2017, there had been rumours of the two fighting each other in Dubai. But such an event never materialised even though Pacquiao had visited the UAE then.

“My success is because of my trust and belief in God along with the hard work that I put in by myself,” Pacquiao said.

“This sport of boxing can never be underestimated. Boxing is about hard work, and it is not just about training. It is also how you discipline yourself and how you’re going to punish yourself in training. I believe I can do this all the time,” the 40-year-old added.

Pacquiao’s visit this weekend has very little to do with boxing as he prepares to headline the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) event to be held at the Hamdan Sports Complex. As the founder of the MPBL, the boxer is scheduled to play in two exhibition matches on Friday and Saturday at the 15,000-capacity indoor facility along Emirates Road.

Organised by DJMC Events in coordination with the DSC, the MPBL Dubai Invasion 2019 will be held on September 27-28 and Pacquiao can’t wait to entertain his majority Filipino fans who are expected to avail of the free transport organised from all parts of the UAE for this weekend’s basketball.

“I thank you for inviting me here and I really appreciate your warm welcome to play in the basketball this week. Everything has been so fantastic and I really thank everyone for all the support I’ve received here,” the boxer said.

“I came here four years ago and what has hit me is all the construction that is taking place. I think I can relax here as there are so many Filipinos working in this country. The people in Dubai are friendly and hospitable and this place is beautiful. I would urge everyone to come and visit this place.”

Pacquiao further insisted that the overseas Filipinos were the inspiration behind starting his MPBL — largely seen as a rival to the popular long-standing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). “The only reason perhaps that I started the MPBL in 2017 was to give a chance to local players,” he said.

“There is so much talent and it would be sad to see this talent going unutilised.”

At a glance

What: MPBL Dubai Invasion 2019

When: Friday and Saturday

Time: From 4pm onwards

Venue: Hamdan Sports Complex (capacity 15,000)

Teams: 3 MPBL teams — inaugural champions Batangas City Athletics, Imus Bandera and Davao Occidental Tigers — contesting regular-season games across two days

Tickets: Start at Dh 50 available at

Transport: Free buses from Karama, Satwa, Deira, Bur Dubai