LOS ANGELES -- Manny Pacquiao's MP Promotions announced in the Philippines on Thursday that the ring legend would return to fight secondary welterweight world titlist Lucas Matthysse on June 24 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN not so fast.
"It's already final I'm going to fight in Malaysia on June 24," Pacquiao told the Manila Times. "It is against Matthysse. I'll be ready for the preparation and it's going to be 11 weeks."
But before presiding over the final news conference on Thursday for the Oscar Valdez-Scott Quigg featherweight world title fight that will take place Saturday night on ESPN at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, Arum told ESPN there was no deal yet and that he didn't believe it would happen.
"For years we've had these proposals from people in the Mideast, whether it's Abu Dhabi, or the Emirates, or Saudi Arabia, and we're still waiting for the first deposit for the fight to happen. It didn't, so now we've shifted our attention from the Mideast to the Far East and we're looking for Malaysian money," Arum said, laughing, because he has been down this road many times.
Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Matthysse, told ESPN that Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz had contacted him about a possible Pacquiao-Matthysse fight but that they have not made a deal yet.
"Michael Koncz reached out to me and all we did was talk and that's all I can say," Gomez said. "We're interested in the fight. It's very preliminary."
Arum said the group interested in bringing a Pacquiao fight to Malaysia supposedly would put up $15 million with $5 million up front.
"If the money comes up then I've agreed to sign on," Arum said. "We would handle the logistics, we would handle the undercard and we would handle the television. All they have to do is say they got the $5 million of the $15 million. That makes it legit. [But] I'm not booking my flight [to Malaysia] yet."
Pacquiao, however, told the Manila Times that his company would handle the promotion, fueling speculation that there has been a break between Pacquiao and Arum, his longtime promoter.
Arum had offered Pacquiao a fight with faded former junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado on April 14 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in the co-feature position on the card headlined by former undisputed junior welterweight world champion Terence Crawford's move up to welterweight to challenge Jeff Horn for the title Horn controversially won by decision from Pacquiao in July.
Pacquiao, however, is said to have been stung by the offer of an undercard spot on a card headlined by a fighter most thought he defeated. Beyond that, Pacquiao has deep tax issues despite earning hundreds of millions of dollars that Arum said would keep him from fighting in the United States.
"He's afraid whatever deal he makes with the IRS they'll seize all the money so he can't fight here," Arum said. "We thought we could work it out with the IRS."
Arum said if the Malaysia fight happens that Matthysse could indeed be the opponent or possibly the Top Rank-promoted Jose Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs), the 2012 U.S. Olympian from Avenal, California, who fights Amir Imam for a vacant junior welterweight belt on March 17 on ESPN at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
If Ramirez wins the title and the fight is made, Arum said Pacquiao would move down to junior welterweight, which he said "makes more sense" than a fight with Matthysse. A Pacquiao-Ramirez fight would be complicated given that Freddie Roach trains both fighters, although Roach has said he has not heard from Pacquiao in quite some time and is unsure if Pacquiao still wanted him to be his trainer.
Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), 39, a senator in the Philippines, is boxing's only eight-division world champion and wants to continue boxing in addition to his political career. He has not fought since the controversial loss to Horn last summer. In addition to saying he would fight Matthysse, Pacquiao also announced a kickoff news conference for March 22 in Kuala Lumpur with subsequent promotional news conferences throughout Asia, such as in Beijing, Tokyo, Macau and Hong Kong.
"I like [Matthysse's] aggressive fighting style," Pacquiao said in announcing the fight. "That's what I want, to entertain the boxing fans. Besides, Matthysse is not a dirty fighter and I highly respect him for that."
That was a knock on Horn, whom Pacquiao has accused of being a dirty fighter after he was cut by repeated head butts in their fight.
Matthysse (39-4, 36 KOs), 35, a big puncher from Argentina, claimed a vacant secondary welterweight title on Jan. 27 with an eighth-round knockout of Thailand's obscure Tewa Kiram.