Almost 12 months since he first retired, Aussie boxer Billy Dib has been confirmed as the bombshell opponent to fight English star Amir Khan in the WBC’s duel in the desert.
In an extraordinary set of circumstances, Dib has been called in at the last minute to replace Indian fighter Neeraj Goyat, who suffered “severe” injuries in a recent car accident and was forced to pull out.
Dib, who hasn’t had a big-name fight since he retired following his unanimous decision loss to American Tevin Farmer in August, has taken the fight at just two weeks notice.
The former featherweight world champion is also coming up two weight classes to fight Khan at welterweight for the WBC’s Pearl Belt title.
The freak series of developments has landed Dib, 33, with one final shot at making a splash on the international boxing stage.
He took to social media on Thursday morning to call his call-up a “real-life Rocky moment”.
Dib and Khan face off at the King Abdullah Sport City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for the specially made, one-off, Pearl Belt — which is not an officially recognised world title, despite the WBC sanctioning the fight as a title showdown.
While many are celebrating Dib’s “Rocky” opportunity, other boxing commentators have labelled the fight a farce, instantly dismissing Dib’s hopes of causing an upset.
The Aussie fighter has never fought at welterweight and will have to fight more than 10kg heavier than his preferred featherweight level of 57kg.
Khan’s fight with Goyat was originally promoted as an “India vs Pakistan” boxing battle, The Sun reports.
The showdown in Saudi Arabia was dramatically scrapped late when Goyat released a statement to announce he suffered “severe injuries to his head, face and arm” in the car crash.
A statement was released by the promoter of the Super Boxing League Bill Dosanjh.
“We are very sad to inform that our star Indian boxer Neeraj Goyat who was preparing for his mega-fight against Amir Khan had a car accident last night that has caused him severe injuries.
“He is currently in hospital and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Khan insisted his fight with Dib is lo laughing matter, labelling the Aussie a “respected and experienced world champion”.
“First of all my heart goes out to Neeraj and I pray for him to make a full recovery and [be] fit and healthy again to resume his boxing career,” Khan said, according to ESPN.
“We’ve had to make the decision to find a replacement and we’ve done extremely well in securing Dib to now be in the opposite corner.
“I would have been absolutely distraught if my dream of fighting in Saudi (Arabia) had to be put on hold. Dib is a respected and experienced (former) world champion so I’m looking forward to pitting my skill against him.”
The fight against Goyat was supposed to provide Khan the perfect bounceback after his shattering defeat by Terence Crawford, The Sun reports.
The Bolton welterweight, 32, was accused of being a quitter after his April WBO title clash with pound-for-pound king Crawford ended with a whimper.
Ex-world champ Khan was pulled out of the contest claiming he could not continue after a low blow from the unbeaten American.
Khan’s brave reputation, earned by taking on the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Marcos Maidana and Canelo Alvarez, took an even bigger blow.
But he jumped into a tune-up bout with Indian Goyat, with only a few weeks of training — after a month’s rest for Ramadan — to exorcise some demons.
But now he will have to prepare for a new opponent.
Dib has fought just once since coming back out of retirement when he knocked out Surachet Tongmala in Sydney in April.