MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine boxing champion Manny Pacquiao will face former two-weight UFC champion Conor McGregor in the ring next year, and part of proceeds from the fight will go to coronavirus victims in his country, his office said on Saturday.
Both fighters are "getting ready for this one epic last boxing fight," said Jayke Joson, special assistant to Pacquiao, who is also a Philippine senator.
Joson's statement followed a tweet by Irishman McGregor in which he said that he would be "boxing Pacquiao next in the Middle East".
"We don't deny it," Joson said of the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champ's tweet.
McGregor announced on Twitter in June that he was retiring from the sport for the third time. He first quit in April 2016. In March 2019, he again announced he was hanging up his gloves, but on both occasions the retirements were short-lived.
Negotiation between the two camps "is now starting to move on", Joson said, adding a "huge portion" of Pacquiao's earnings would go to those who were affected by the pandemic.
Total confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines surpassed 300,000 on Saturday, while deaths rose to 5,284.
The Philippines has the most confirmed COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia and the region's second highest number of coronavirus deaths, next to Indonesia.
The 41-year-old Pacquiao, whose speed and power belie his age, is the only man in boxing history to hold world titles in eight different divisions.
He defeated Keith Thurman to win the WBA Welterweight Super Championship in July, taking his record to 62-7-2 with 39 knockouts.
McGregor has only fought once in professional boxing, suffering a 10th-round technical knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a lucrative bout that took place in August 2017.
Despite his limited experience in the boxing ring, McGregor, a former two-weight UFC champion, told Reuters in November 2017 that the Mayweather fight earned him 140 million dollars.
(Reporting by Karen Lema, additional reporting by Philip O'Connor; editing by Clare Fallon and Hugh Lawson)