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Pacquiao vs.Horn fight hangs in the balance


By Anthony Cocks


The on-again, off-again fight between WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and contender Jeff Horn took another turn last week with reports out of England that former welterweight world champion Amir Khan is in the frame to face the Filipino superstar in place of the little known Australian in the United Arab Emirates.
Ever since Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz made the surprise announcement this month that the 38 year-old senator’s next fight would take place in the UAE, the future of his bout against Horn has looked in jeopardy.  But the 29 year-old former schoolteacher remains confident the fight will come to fruition and insists that the venue for the bout isn’t as important as who is standing in the opposite corner. 
“This talk doesn’t really distract me because I know I will be fighting him on the 23rd [of April],” said Horn, 16-0-1 (11). “What is frustrating is Manny posting who his next fight should be.”
After Koncz broke the news of the UAE negotiations, Pacquiao’s official Twitter account was used to run a poll on who he should face next.  Khan 31-4 (19) blitzed the competition with 48% of the vote, while Horn came in last with 7% behind Kell Brook at 24% and Terence Crawford, 21%. 
Almost 45,000 voters participated in the poll that represented little more than name recognition sweepstakes.  If Horn does land the fight with Pacquiao 59-6-2 (38) it will be the first time the seven division world champion has fought an opponent who isn’t a current or former titleholder since Jorge Solis at 130 pounds almost a decade ago. 
While the speculation and pressure has continued to mount, trainer Glenn Rushton has remained focused on the task at hand.
"It has been a distraction to some degree," said Rushton.  "But Jeff and I have let our promoter Duco Events and their co-promoter, Top Rank, do their job."
Late last year Duco Events reached a co-promotional deal with Las Vegas powerhouse and Pacquiao promoter Top Rank.  Both promoters quickly came to an agreement to match the WBO welterweight champion with the #2 contender at the 52,500 seat Suncorp Stadium in Horn’s hometown of Brisbane on April 23rd.  

No-one was expecting Koncz to pop up as a third wheel and put the kybosh on the fight, with an unnamed party from the UAE reportedly prepared to put up $USD38 million to bring a Pacquiao fight to the Middle East.
"I have nothing but respect for [Duco Events Director] Dean Lonergan and [Top Rank CEO] Bob Arum," said Rushton.  "It’s not easy putting these fights together, and I know they’re doing everything possible to get this fight to Suncorp Stadium on April 23rd.  Someone of Manny Pacquiao’s status obviously has many advisors, and again, we respect each of their opinions.  All that being said, we will be pleased to get this resolved ASAP."
Half a world away Arum remains skeptical about the UAE deal but is happy to let negotiations run their course. 
"The money in Australia wasn’t anywhere near $38 million," he told last week.  "If the $38 million is real, it trumps the Australian deal.  If it’s real, we will assist putting on the event, but I am not holding my breath and I’m not making plane reservations."
If the UAE money does come to fruition, it will effectively rule out Horn as an opponent.
"The Australian deal is not going to happen now because Manny is trying to get a fight done in the United Arab Emirates," explained Arum.  "The people there favour him fighting Amir Khan."
But Arum stresses there is still a big "if" surrounding a Pacquiao fight in the Middle East.
"Whether it will happen or not I just don’t know because they have to come up with a large amount of money." 
Meanwhile Horn and Rushton will keep pushing ahead their fight preparations in the southern hemisphere while Koncz continues his quest for a lucrative deal in the Middle East.
The desert millions may yet to prove to be a mirage.
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