Manny Pacquiao says he is in talks to fight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko

This file photo taken on April April 26, 2017 shows World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight defending champion Manny Pacquiao gesturing during a promotional press conference at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Manny Pacquiao says he is in talks to fight world champion Vasyl Lomachenko

MANILA: Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao said on Wednesday he was in talks for a blockbuster bout with world champion Vasyl Lomachenko, widely considered the best “pound-for-pound” fighter on the planet.
Pacquiao, 39, who has won world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, is eyeing an April date with the Ukrainian World Boxing Organization superfeatherweight champ during a break from his duties as a Philippines senator.
“There are negotiations now about the number one pound-for-pound (boxer) which is Lomachenko,” Pacquiao said in an interview on ABS-CBN television.
“There are still talks on the weight, reducing the weight,” said Pacquiao, who has been fighting as a welterweight.
Pacquiao aides told AFP there has been no agreement on the venue and the actual date of the Lomachenko fight.
Rated by boxing experts as the world’s top “pound-for-pound” fighter, Lomachenko, 29, has lost just once in 11 pro bouts and won all the others by knockout.
Pacquiao, whose loss of his WBO welterweight title to Australia’s Jeff Horn last year left his record standing at 59 wins, seven losses and two draws, is now in the twilight of his career.
The Filipino southpaw retired briefly in 2016 but made a comeback to retake his WBO title from Jessie Vargas just months later. He has not scored a knockout win in the past eight years.
In contrast Lomachenko cemented his status last year after retaining his WBO junior lightweight title.
Lomachenko, who won gold in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, rocketed to the top of his weight class after turning pro in 2013, winning nine world championship fights in his first 11 contests.
Pacquiao, who has not climbed the ring since the Horn loss, said last month he had opened talks to fight mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor in April.
But the Irishman said he wanted his next bout to be a return to the octagon after losing a boxing bout to unbeaten Floyd Mayweather by a 10th-round technical knockout in their much-hyped fight in Las Vegas in August last year.
On Wednesday, Pacquiao rejected calls for him to retire for good, adding he did not believe his recent losses tarnished his record.
“You know, I miss boxing,” Pacquiao said, adding he was “still okay.”
Pacquiao, elected a senator in 2016, said he would only train for three months for an April fight so he did not neglect his legislative duties.
“That’s more than enough.”
Pacquiao said Wednesday he was also open to fighting British boxer Amir Khan but said any fight would have to be done in April when the Philippine Congress would go on break.


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.