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.
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.
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.
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.