43 years after Ali, KL hosts another boxing great

Boxing great Manny Pacquiao, the only eight-division world champion in boxing history. (Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: In 1975, Malaysia welcomed Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport, for a fight against Joe Bugner.

Many Malaysians of that era would remember Ali’s electrifying presence in Kuala Lumpur.

Now, 43 years later, another spectacular boxing match is on the cards.

One of the sport’s most decorated champions, Manny Pacquiao, is set to take on World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse in a title fight.

Pacquiao, who is the only eight-division world champion in boxing history, isn’t just coming to Kuala Lumpur to put on a show.

The Filipino senator is seeking his ninth title while Argentine Matthysse will want to show how dominant a champion he can be in his first title defence.

But it isn’t just Pacquiao or Matthysse who will leave the Axiata Arena on July 15 in triumph, says Pacquiao’s promotional outfit MP Promotions.

“The Fight of Champions is good for Malaysian tourism. This is the second big fight after Ali vs Bugner. Now you have the boxing icon of Asia taking on the WBA welterweight champion,” MP Promotions head of business Arnold Vegafria told FMT in an interview.

Vegafria said the fight would be good promotion for Malaysia, adding that he hoped Malaysians would show their support whether by watching the match live or on television.

He said it didn’t matter to Pacquiao that Malaysians did not have an established interest in boxing, as the main aim of the “Pacman” was to promote Asian athletes and sports.

He said this was why some 70% of the undercards in the fight were Asians from countries like China, Korea, Thailand, India, Pakistan and even Malaysia. He added that the fights would be broadcast to 270 countries around the world.

Vegafria said Pacquiao also wanted to promote sports and discourage the use of drugs.

“Say yes to sports and not to drugs,” he said, adding that Pacquiao wanted to bring the fight to Malaysia to help strengthen ties with the country, its new leaders and government.

“We are neighbours. It’s a good way to build ties with Malaysia and that is why we want to showcase his fight here,” said Vegafria, adding that they had received good support from both the government and the private sector.