A ONE-time Manny Pacquiao sparmate gets the benefit of facing the retired boxing superstar in a rare exhibition bout early next year in Saudi Arabia.
The 43-year-old Pacquiao will battle Frenchman Jaber Zayani in a non-sacntioned eight-round bout tentatively set mid-February at the King Fahd Stadium.
The 31-year-old Zayani, a native of Saint-Martin-d'Hères, Isère, France, served as Pacquiao’s sparmate when the Filipino boxing icon trained for his 12-round world welterweight title bout against Keith Thurman in July 2019.
See: Pacquiao says no plan for a boxing comeback - for now
The Frenchman is an unbeaten lightweight contender with a record of 18-0, including 11 KOs. He recently signed a five-year multi-million promotional deal with Saudi Prince Al-Walid Ben Talal.
The Saudi Prince assigned Abdullah Al Murad, through their entity Elite Sports Athletes (ESA), to be at the forefront of the momentous event.
Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring for an exhibition.
The contract was formally signed last week at Pacquiao’s house in Makati City through the help of the boxing legend’s friend, former Ilocos Sur governor Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson.
“I personally negotiated with the senator together with my team and after months of talks, we finally agreed to a face off next year. He already signed the contract so it is a go,” said Zayani who was accompanied by Filipino business manager Nico Rojas.
“Call it an exhibition or something but when the senator signed the deal, I told him to prepare well because I’m going to give him a real fight. He then told me, ‘you better be prepared’,” he added.
“I was honest with the senator that I’m looking at this as my biggest break which I will surely maximize. I aim to create a buzz and become a household name. Sure, the organizers are calling this an exhibition but for me, it’s a chance to exhibit my talent as a future world champion,” added Zayani.
While on the campaign trail for the Philippine presidency late last year which he eventually lost, Pacquiao announced his retirement from boxing, one month after bowing to Cuban Yordenis Ugas in August 2021 for the WBA welterweight championship in Las Vegas.
Just last month, Pacquiao signed up for a six-round exhibition match against Korean youtuber DK Yoo scheduled on Dec. 10 in Seoul, South Korea.
Pacquiao then agreed to take on Zayani when the deal was presented to him by longtime trainer Nonoy Neri.
“That’s going to be a December Samgyup party for the senator, but once he meets me inside the right, he’s going to get French toasted,” said the Frenchman.