Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has called out boxing legend Manny Pacquaio for withdrawing from a rematch with WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn, accusing him of running scared.
Palaszczuk, whose government was supporting the planned November rematch, said she was disappointed by Pacquiao's withdrawal.
"Frankly, I think he's a bit too scared to come and face Jeff Horn," she told reporters in Brisbane.
Pacquio's camp blamed judges and the referee for his shock loss to Horn at the famous "Battle of Brisbane" upset in July this year, but Palaszczuk said his refusal to take part in the prosed second bout showed the Filipino boxer knew he'd been beaten.
"For Manny not to reappear really says to me that he knows Jeff is the world champion."
The hunt is now on for a new opponent for Horn, with American Jesse Vargas touted as a contender, but Palaszczuk has another name in her sights - Conor McGregor.
The Irish mixed martial arts champion is expected to walk away from his loss to Floyd Mayweather last Sunday with an estimated pay cheque of about $US100 million ($NZ139 million) and the premier indicated she'd welcome the addition of his star power to the Horn bout.
"If we could get McGregor, that would be great."
Pacquiao had agreed to the rematch clause to fight Horn again at Suncorp Stadium on November 12, but in recent days began telling Filipino reporters he wanted the fight held in Manila.
Then, on Friday, the government trip to China unexpectedly came up as an excuse not to rematch Horn, leaving many pundits suspicious.
Horn's Kiwi promoter Dean Lonergan, though, accepted the Filipino's circumstances and said he hoped the much anticipated rematch could be made.
"I don't think for one second Manny Pacquiao is running scared of Jeff Horn," Lonergan said. "He has been in the ring with the greatest boxers of our generation, he's not going to be inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame for ducking fight.
"I just don't think the timing suited him, so we will look at other options. Manny Pacquiao has decided that he will not be competing in a rematch with Jeff Horn in 2017.
"On behalf of the Philippines government, he will be part of a delegation that will visit China in the middle of his proposed preparation period for the fight.
"Pacquiao is committed to fighting again in 2018 and a rematch with Jeff Horn for the WBO world welterweight title."