Pacquiao vs. Khan—Right Time, Wrong Place
Holding an event in Dubai or Abu Dhabi is a bad move for the sport. Per the usual, money makes many turn a disinterested mind…
“It’s about time,” many may have said in the past week. The boxing world learned that eight-division, global superstar Manny Pacquiao would not be facing the game yet virtually unknown Jeff Horn in Australia for his next contest. Instead and in a welcomed fashion, Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KO’s) is now set to rumble with Amir “King” Khan (31-4, 19 KO’s) for the WBO world welterweight title on May 20. Perhaps we as the sport’s most ardent supporters should feel relieved that we won’t be subjected to yet another questionable, high dollar bout carrying an unwarranted price tag on pay TV. Although Pacquiao’s next fight will likely find itself as part of a pay-per-view telecast, the simple fact that a bout with Khan carries much more intrigue and significance than one against Jeff Horn makes our separation from fifty dollars or more a bit easier to accept.
More fighters should have the freedom to allow fans to select their next opponents by way of a vote as Manny is said to have done a few weeks ago. Imagine if Floyd Mayweather, Jr., for example, in the past fired out such a chance to the public via social media. Would we have waited for more than half a decade to see the dreadfully boring bout with Pacquiao that we saw almost two years ago? Who knows and frankly, who cares? This article is not to speculate what fans would like to see because many of us already have a good idea of the answer to such a query.
In previous ages, boxing’s high profile contests took place around the globe. Some still do today, yet none have carried the weight of such classics as “The Rumble in the Jungle” or “The Thrilla in Manila.” Promoters go to great lengths to bring the sport to the four corners, however the choice of the United Arab Emirates as the site for the Pacquiao/Khan contest is abhorrent, to put it lightly. The fact that the residents of Dubai or Abu Dhabi may have to watch the fight early in the morning of Sunday, May 21, so audiences in the United States can catch it live on Saturday night is immaterial.
Much like when FIFA awarded the 2010 World Cup to South Africa or when Beijing hosted the Olympics in 2008, just because a global sporting event hasn’t taken place in a certain region of the world isn’t reason enough to award one to it. Many of the world’s best soccer players of past and present hail from Brazil, yet how much money was spent by the cash strapped country to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics two years later? While much of the population lives in abject poverty and has limited access to such basic human needs as clean drinking water and trustworthy sanitation, the “unity” of sports was more important. Meanwhile, the ideas, opinions and most importantly, the facts brought forth by Brazilians meant little to nothing to the planners of the events.
Finally, to the point of why holding a sporting event in the UAE should disgust boxing fans. One doesn’t have to look far to see the region’s record in terms of human rights and how expats are brought to the area to build its flashy structures while they are at times literally worked to death in the scorching desert sun. Censorship is prevalent and while the area is more relaxed and liberal than many of its neighboring countries in the Middle East, no proverbial pat on the back is earned for it. Political parties don’t exist and the buck starts and stops with the insanely rich ruling elite. Per the Human Rights Watch website:
“The United Arab Emirates (UAE) often uses its affluence to mask the government’s serious human rights problems. The government arbitrarily detains and in some cases forcibly disappears individuals who criticized the authorities and its security forces face allegations of torturing detainees. A new anti-discrimination law further jeopardizes free speech and is discriminatory, as it excludes references to gender and sexuality. Authorities denied access to the country to activists who criticized the UAE’s mistreatment of migrant workers. Labor abuses persist and migrant workers face serious exploitation. Female domestic workers are excluded from regulations that apply to workers in other sectors.”
This is an area of the world which broke away from the British in the early 1970’s and proceeded to form a grand federation governed by one individual. A male, of course. Oh, yes and let’s not forget about the oil. Lots and lots of oil. Meanwhile, the skyline is dominated by the world tallest building (Burj Khalifa), a self-proclaimed seven star hotel (Burj Al Arab) and a man-made group of archipelagos in the Persian Gulf known as the Palm Jumeirah and “The World,” respectively. These are absolute marvels of architecture and innovation, to be sure. They’re also built like much of the region, which is on the backs of workers from such countries as Pacquiao’s very own Philippines and Khan’s ancestral homeland of Pakistan. Matters would be much different if labor laws comparable to the majority of the free world existed in the UAE, but they don’t.
Articles, documentaries and stories continue to flood out of the country which offer a glimpse of the workforce’s living conditions. They live far away and beyond the bling and glamour of a purring Lamborghini Murcielago’s engine and high end fashion stores. Their dormitories are health hazards mired in filth and utter squalor. They have no room or place to protest and they’re worked to the bone on a daily basis. Sadly, the job ends for some when they are reunited with their respective families. They return home in a red box.
Holding an event in the UAE is a bad move for the sport, yet few will realize, let alone acknowledge this. Per the usual, money makes many turn a disinterested mind.