Amir Khan says he is excited about fighting in Saudi Arabia this weekend in what represents a new pathway for boxing.
Khan is set to face Australian Billy Dib in Jeddah on Friday night after his initial opponent, Neeraj Goyat, was forced to withdraw from the fight after sustaining injuries in a car crash.
And the Bolton-based fighter is relishing the prospect of taking the sport to the Middle East, an area he knows well through his Islamic faith but one he is now exploring for exclusively career-based purposes.
“It’s opening a new avenue for boxing, and to be fighting in Saudi Arabia is really special,” Khan said.
“I can’t wait because I’ve never seen the other side of Saudi Arabia – I normally know it as you go there for a pilgrimage and go straight back home, but this time it’s going to be different.
“Saudi Arabia is so behind in boxing – I couldn’t believe it. When I was sat with the ministers in a meeting, they back the sport so much and they know how big it is so they want to be one hundred per cent behind it.
“They don’t want to do just one show, they want to do many shows.
“We want to give them that commitment to show them how good it is.”
Saudi Arabia is no stranger to hosting major fights, however, recently welcoming British boxers George Groves and Callum Smith for their World Super Series bout at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
And the futuristic venue, constructed in 2012 to help put Saudi Arabia on the sporting map, is now set to step into the global spotlight once again as one of boxing’s biggest names sets foot in the ring this weekend.
“Saudi Arabia is huge and that was one day on my tick list – to maybe fight in the Middle East,” Khan added.
“We tried Dubai but that never happened, but now Saudi Arabia have come up and said they’ll put a fight on.
“The World Super Series has been there and it was a good show – because they’ve done that then I’m sure they can put on another fight.”
Khan, who is looking to bounce back from his defeat to Terence Crawford in the US last year, is set to rake in £7million in prize money from the fight in a lucrative deal signed with the country as he enters the twilight of his career.
But aside from the money, he is looking forward forward to seeing if Jeddah is capable of putting on a special display that can lay the foundations for a successful future for Saudi Arabian boxing.
“They are throwing a lot of money on to the table and at the end of the day we are prizefighters – for me I would be stupid to not take this opportunity,” he said.
“We could have taken this fight elsewhere and maybe made as much money and know that it would be one hundred per cent right.
“So it is a risk for us at the same time – fighting out in Saudi Arabia, is it going to work or not and is it going to perform?
“In a way it’s going to show us and it’s going to show the world where Saudi Arabia is at in boxing on the biggest scale.”
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