LONDON: British Pakistani boxer Amir Khan said Thursday that Prime Minister Imran Khan would attend his boxing match in Saudi Arabia next month .
Amir Khan will face Indian fighter Neeraj Goyat in Jeddah on July 12 in a fight that is being billed as an attempt to build bridges between the South Asian rival nations.
“We wrote to the Pakistani prime minister (and) he jumped to the occasion and he said he was going to be at the fight,” Amir Khan told Arab News at a press conference in London.
Prime minister of pakistan @ImranKhanPTI as agreed to attend Saudi Arabia, Jeddah season boxing fight. @amirkingkhan vs India’s Neeraj Goyat, July 12th #PakvInd #boxing #Pakistan #India #SaudiArabia @wbcmoro @WBCBoxing pic.twitter.com/WV6vKbPAMB— amirkhanpromotions (@amirkhanpromo) June 6, 2019
Promoters also said they hoped Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would also attend - something many would consider unlikely after an escalation in hostilities in the disputed Kashmir region earlier this year.
However, Imran Khan's government has repeatedly said it would be open to talks with India.
Khan also said that an invitation would also be sent to the British Prime Minister as well.
"I am a British fighter, but, as you know, I am British-Pakistani and it’s great to have that backing," Khan told Arab News.
Amir Khan met the prime minister in October last year during a visit to Pakistan just two months after the cricket legend turned politician took office.
Khan’s fight against the former NMA fighter Goyat, will take place at the King Abdullah Sports City during Saudi Seasons.
When asked why Saudi Arabia by Arab News, Khan said: "First of all, I saw the world boxing series being held there and also been there for pilgrimage and visited a lot of cities and I thought it would be amazing one day, especially with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the Jeddah Season, to support more events in Saudi Arabia," he said.
Khan added that the deal was finalized within a week, which "shows that many cultures in the Middle East are trying to move into sports and they have now got to the bottom of it."
Answering the same question, Goyat's manager, Ricky Mann, said: "As you know history has shown the two countries (India and Pakistan) are very hostile, so going to a neutral venue like Saudi Arabia makes it the best of both worlds."
Khan is also setting up a few Amir Khan academies in Saudi Arabia, which has come within the package of the fighting deal.
"Hopefully, we should be opening a few Amir Khan Foundation academies and promoting boxing among the next generation of Saudi fighters and the local talent to support them and give them the opportunity," Khan said.
Super Boxing League consultant Asif Vali said Amir has already set up successful academies in Pakistan three years ago.
"Now with this new opportunity with Saudi Arabia, we are not only setting up academies, we are also setting up gyms as academies," Vali said.
He added that "eight will go live in the next few weeks and then 120 over a three-year plan, as well as an educational program, for girls, boys, males, and females and we're going to teach them how boxing helps in building education and building themselves outside the ring as well."
The former unified world welterweight champion has visited Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions, including for pilgrimages.
Speaking at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh in November, he said he wanted to open a boxing academy in the Kingdom.
At Thursday’s press conference, he reflected on his experiences in Saudi Arabia.
“When I was there last, it had all changed. I started seeing women not wearing head scarves. Women were out driving," Khan said. “They had a huge concert where everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves. I'd never seen that side of Saudi Arabia before.
“Maybe now they are changing to make it that new place where people can enjoy themselves and it's fair for women.”
Khan also thanked the Saudi government and General Sports Authority for giving giving him the opportunity to fight in Jeddah.
Khan stepped onto the world boxing stage at just 17 when he won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
In April, the 32 year old lost to WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford.
Goyat, from Chandigarh, has helped establish professional boxing in India.