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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Qatar in talks to host historic Pacquiao fight


Manny Pacquiao, Terence Crawford or Kell Brook could take the stage in Doha’s first ever boxing match

Qatar is hoping to host its first ever boxing championship fight sometime next year. 

Promoter and Top Rank CEO, Bob Arum, is in talks with Qatari officials including Qatar 2022 World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi to bring big-name boxing to the country. Arum had previously closed a deal to bring Manny Pacquiao and Terence Crawford to the boxing ring in Doha, however, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the event as the health minister said he would not allow spectators at the fight. 

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“If Terence is successful in this fight, I will then go back to them and I believe by March or April, it’ll be an all clear with the vaccine and so forth, and we could put the fight on then,” Arum said in a video call ahead of Crawford’s Saturday’s bout with Kell Brook. “They were keen to do it and … we were at the highest level of the government.”

Last December, Saudi Arabia staged the first-ever heavyweight title fight in the Middle East. However, Anthony Joshua’s victory over Andy Ruiz Jr. was shrouded in controversy over the kingdom’s human rights violations.

Read also: Qatar, Saudi Arabia compete for ‘magical’ 2030 Asian Games bid

“Is there repression to some extent in certain countries in the Middle East? Yeah, probably, yes,” Arum said. “But by coming and doing a big international event, we begin to ease that repression. I really believe that … to change incrementally, the culture.”

In the lead up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has been setting its sights on bringing world-class sports to the country, having previously hosted the 2019 IAAAF World Athletics Championships as well as the annual Qatar ExxonMobil Tennis Open, and the 2019 World Beach Games. 

Qatar also played host to the group stages of the 2020 AFC Champions League amid the COVID-19 pandemic and was awarded the hosting rights of the final stages of the championship in November 2020, after considerably controlling the spread of the coronavirus amongst its population and taking precautions to curb the pandemic’s effect, making it the ideal spot for a boxing match of this level. 

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