The long and winding road to Manny Pacquiao’s next fight appears to be over.
Australian Jeff Horn will challenge Pacquiao for his welterweight world title at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia, on July 2 (July 1 in the U.S.), Horn’s promoter, Duco Events, announced Saturday.
Also, the Queensland government, pivotal to bankrolling the event, said it will host the fight, which is expected to draw some 55,000, according to Australian media reports.
However, Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao and has a close business relationship with Duco Events — they co-promote heavyweight world titleholder Joseph Parker — said the deal was not quite yet over the finish line.
“We are extremely close to the deal being finalized, but Manny has signed,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN on Saturday night at the Vasyl Lomachenko-Jason Sosa card the company was promoting in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum was not available for comment as he returned home to Las Vegas on Friday to deal with a family situation.
Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs), the 38-year-old Filipino legend and only eight-division world titleholder in boxing history, regained the welterweight belt he lost by decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in their record-breaking megafight in 2015 when he easily outpointed Jessie Vargas in November.
Arum began pursuing the fight with Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs), 29, who would fight Pacquiao in front of his hometown crowd in Brisbane, shortly thereafter. The fight was initially targeted for April, but there were many bumps along the way that forced it into the summer, not the least of which was Pacquiao’s seemingly indifferent attitude toward facing an opponent he — and most everybody else — had never heard of.
At one point, Pacquiao blew off the Horn deal and instead came to an agreement with England’s Amir Khan (31-4, 19 KOs), the welterweight contender and former unified junior welterweight titleholder, to fight this spring.
Pacquiao and adviser Michael Koncz went chasing after a supposed $38 million pot of gold being dangled by an unnamed investment group that wanted to bring him to the United Arab Emirates to fight Khan, the opponent the group wanted him to face because, as a Muslim, he would be an attractive opponent for Pacquiao to face in the Middle East.
However, as Arum suspected all along, the money was not there to consummate the deal and it fell apart, leaving Pacquiao to finally accept the Horn fight.
The boxers signed their end of the deal in the past week or so, but there were still vital details to work out between the promoters and the site and Queensland’s government.
Horn said he believed the fight with Pacquiao would happen, telling Australian media outlets, “Finally this rocky road about announcing this fight is finally over. We can say it’s finally happening on July 2. I’d never actually thought Pacquiao would still be around when I was going to get my shot at the world title. I’m still young, still under 30, so I’m ready to take this shot.”