Manny Pacquiao will defend his WBO welterweight title against an opponent chosen by fans in a poll on Twitter. The Filipino will defend his belt in the United Arab Emirates later this year against either British pair Amir Khan and Kell Brook, Jeff Horn of Australia or American Terence Crawford – with the challenger being decided by boxing followers across the globe.
The 38-year-old, who is also a senator in his Philippines homeland, came out of retirement to beat Jessie Vargas last November and is keen to begin the defence of his WBO crown which he won for a third time in 2016. Pacquiao has 109,000 followers on the social media platform and has asked each of them to decide his fate.
"See you in the USE for my next fight," Pacquiao posted prior to starting the poll. At the time of writing Khan, who is yet to confirm the identity of his next opponent and has long chased a fight with Pacquiao, leads with 48% of the vote. It is not yet clear if the survey will dictate the veteran fighter's next opponent or whether it it is merely canvassing opinion among the boxing fraternity.
Nevertheless, the act helps raise anticipation ahead of Pacquiao's competitive return to the ring. Khan's British rival Brook is expected to confirm a fight with Errol Spence in the coming days in his first fight since being dismantled by Gennady Golovkin in September, making the former Olympic silver medallist the leading contender for the bout.
Khan, 30, has regularly stated his desire to face Pacquiao in the UAE in an effort to tap into boxing's following in western Asia. "Qatar is one that is interested in me fighting over there as well as Dubai and Abu Dhabi," he said, according to Gulf News, in August 2015. "We need to hear from those guys, people from those countries and cities. So let's wait and see.
"All the major sports are going over there now, so why not take boxing there? Starting off with Amir Khan versus Manny Pacquiao would be massive out there. There is a huge British expat community in the UAE, plus there are a lot of Pakistanis and Filipinos. We have huge followings around the world so I think it would be one of the biggest fights ever."
Pacquiao's social media exercise is not the first time boxers have used the platform to provoke fans into deciding their next opponent. Floyd Mayweather Jr allowed fans to cast votes on his next fight in 2014, with Khan claiming a 60% majority, only for the American to then take on Marcos Maidana.