Manny Pacquiao looks set for a sensational return to the ring after a gap of five years to fight unbeaten Conor Benn who is eighteen years younger than the 45-year-old Filipino boxing icon.

Speaking during the official weigh-in for the Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou heavyweight blockbuster in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Thursday night Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) told DAZNBoxing presenter Ariel Halawani, “I’m in shape, ready to go and the months we gave them to schedule the fight are May and June.”

Benn (23-0, 14 KOs) did a mock face-off with Pacquiao for the cameras and issued a bullish statement saying: “If the public wants it they can get it. I’ll fight anyone they put in front of me. I’m ready to go now, tomorrow. “We’re both ready, let’s get a pen and paper and do it.”

Pacquiao was last seen in a sanctioned bout in August 2021 when he lost on points to Cuban Yordenis Uags and then retreated from the ring to campaign for the Philippine presidential and vice presidential elections which were held in May 2022.

More recently the eight-division champion has been in full training for a lucrative exhibition bout on April 20 against Muay Thai-kickboxing legend Buakaw Banchamek. The six-round match is set to take place at a 155 lbs catchweight under international boxing rules.

It would appear that the hunger to compete was evident as Pacquiao, who has been one-and-off linked to fights with Amir Khan and others, said he intends to leave Saudi Arabia this weekend with a signed contract to fight in the Kingdom.

“I can give a good fight and we can entertain the fans,” the former pound-for-pound king said. “It’s been a while since I fought a young fighter like him. I watched a couple of his fights and he’s good, very good.

“He’s popular here (in Saudi Arabia and the U.K.) and he’s willing to fight me now. I expect us to finalize it this weekend, and I think we’ll fight here in Saudi Arabia.”

Pacquiao also had a message for Turki Alalshikh, who was responsible for bringing boxing to Saudi Arabia, “for inviting me here again and for all the support he has given boxing and all sports.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn, whose stable of fighters includes Anthony Joshua, Canelo Álvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Oleksandr Usyk, said he and Pacquiao advisor Sean Gibbons will begin discussions immediately because boxing can be magical in moments like this when ‘idols become rivals.’

“We’re talking, this is the fight I love,” said the British sports promoter who is chairman of Matchroom Sport. “He (Pacquiao) is a legend of the sport and Conor is one of the big lions of the sport.

“It will be an honour for me if we can make this fight here in Saudi Arabia, Wembley (England), wherever.

“Conor I believe is the future at 147 pounds and Pacquiao is a legend. I’m excited.”

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