ISLAMABAD: Former unified light-welterweight world champion, Amir Khan, is set to square off against Australian boxer Billy Dib in Jeddah on Friday, in a match the British Pakistani Olympic fighter hopes will make him the face of boxing in Saudi Arabia.
Khan was originally slated to face Indian Neeraj Goyat at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah less than three months after he was controversially defeated by Terence Crawford. Khan was reportedly being paid £7m, £3m more than he earned against Crawford, to headline a team event between fighters representing Pakistan and India. However, Goyat was forced to pull out of the match due to injuries sustained in a car accident and Dib was invited to take his place.
Khan and Dib will be competing for the WBC International Welterweight Championship, part of a series of events at Jeddah’s Season Festival. Khan will take part in the finale fight that includes other international boxers like Hughie Fury, Prince Patel and Dave Penasola.
Khan’s fight is only the second mega boxing event of it’s kind in Saudi Arabia, following last year’s fight in which British boxers Callum Smith and George Groves competed for the Muhammad Ali Trophy at the same venue in Jeddah.
Khan has been vocal about his hopes that Friday’s event will catapult boxing to the center stage in the Middle East and make him the face of the sport in the region.
“It’s a massive opportunity for us to get out there and make a name in this part of the world. At the same time Saudi wants to introduce more boxing to the country,” Khan told The National newspaper. “So at least I can say one day that I helped grow it here and was one of the first guys to make history in boxing. And who knows, I could be the face of boxing in Saudi Arabia.”
Friday’s fight, though now deprived of the enthusiasm that a clash between sparring neighbors Pakistan and India had generated, still has its share of controversy. Khan and Dib vary in weight class with Khan classified as a “Welterweight” while Dib teeters between “feather” and “light” weight. Both Khan and Dib have held World Championship titles in their respective weight classes in the past.
When asked about the weight difference, Khan told UK’s Mirror: “We are all prize fighters at the end of the day.” Speaking to The National, he said he would not underestimate his opponent no matter the weight difference.
Khan began boxing competitively at age 11 and won an Olympic Silver for boxing when he was 17, making him Britain’s youngest boxing Olympic medalist. He has since risen to become one of the world’s best known and most successful boxers.