Pacquiao set to fight unbeaten French boxer in Saudi Arabia

FORMER SENATOR Emmanuel Manny Pacquiao connects to Cuba's Yordenis Ugas in their Las Vegas bout. (Photo by Wendell Alinea)

MAKATI CITY — Yes, world boxing icon Manny Pacquiao will fight again in the ring.

After a December 10 exhibition bout against a South Korean Youtuber, world boxing icon and eight-division boxing champion Emmanuel Manny Pacquiao will face a former sparmate in  Saudi Arabia early next year.

In an agreement signed in his Forbes Park, Makati City residence, Pacquiao, 43, will square off against French Jaber Zayani in a non-sanctioned eight-round match tentatively set mid-February 2023 in King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh.

The 31-year-old Zayani was Pacquiao’s sparmate when the Filipino ring icon was preparing for his world welterweight title fight against American Keith Thurman in July 2019.

Zayani is an undefeated lightweight fighter with an immaculate record of 18-0, including 11 knockouts.

“I personally negotiated with the senator together with my team and after months of talks, we finally agreed to a face-off next year. He already signed the contract so it is a go,” said Zayani during the signing of the deal accompanied by Filipino business manager Nico Rojas.

Zayani said Pacquiao, through the help of Mayor Luis “Chavit” Singson, agreed to the non-sanctioned 8-round bout using the regular 8-ounce gloves.

“Call it an exhibition or something but when the senator signed the deal, I told him to prepare well because I’m going to give him a real fight. He then told me, ‘you better be prepared’,” said Zayani.

“I was honest with the senator that I’m looking at this as my biggest break which I will surely maximize. I aim to create a buzz and become a household name. Sure, the organizers are calling this an exhibition but for me, it’s a chance to exhibit my talent as a future world champion,” Zayani added.

Zayani earlier signed a five-year multimillion promotional deal with Saudi Prince Al-Walid Bin Talal who assigned Abdullah Al Murad, through their entity Elite Sports Athletes (ESA), to be at the forefront of the momentous event.

The former senator retired from professional boxing in September last year to focus on his bid for the Philippine presidency, just a month after suffering a unanimous decision loss to Cuban Yordenis Ugas. (Jeanne Michael Penaranda)