Josh Warrington believes unification fight with Can Xu will be 'something special'

IBF WORLD Champion Josh Warrington finally looks set to get his long-awaited featherweight unification bout after he agreed terms to face WBA world title holder Can Xu this summer.
Warrington's next opponent Can Xu. PIC:PIC: STR/AFP via Getty Images.Warrington's next opponent Can Xu. PIC:PIC: STR/AFP via Getty Images.
Warrington's next opponent Can Xu. PIC:PIC: STR/AFP via Getty Images.

No set date has been given for the bout, owing to the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that has currently put a number of countries across the globe on lockdown.

However, promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed that a deal has been struck for a unification fight between Warrington and Xu which will be held at Emerald Headingley Stadium this summer, if conditions allow.

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Warrington has held the IBF belt since dethroning Welshman Lee Selby in May 2018, producing one of the finest performances of his career.

Josh Warrington knocked out Sofiance Takoucht in his last title defence. PIC: Steve Riding.Josh Warrington knocked out Sofiance Takoucht in his last title defence. PIC: Steve Riding.
Josh Warrington knocked out Sofiance Takoucht in his last title defence. PIC: Steve Riding.

He followed that by defending his title for the first time against former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton in December of the same year.

The Leeds-born fighter, who boasts an undefeated record of 30 wins and zero losses, won with a unanimous points decision in a bout that was named British fight of the year.

Hopes of a unification fight were frustrated throughout 2019 as the Leeds Warrior twice defended his belt, beating Kid Galahad and Sofiane Takoucht at the First Direct Leeds Arena in June and October respectively.

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But the IBF champion is keen for his fight with Xu to go ahead with Headingley bosses understood to be flexible when it comes to fixing a date.

Gary Russell Junior. PIC: Al Bello/Getty Images.Gary Russell Junior. PIC: Al Bello/Getty Images.
Gary Russell Junior. PIC: Al Bello/Getty Images.

“We want to be part of entertaining fights and be part of memorable fights. That is all I want to be part of,” said Warrington.

“It will be something special.”

He added: “From winning the world title and defending it against some of the world’s best. I’m desperate to win another belt.”

WBO champion Shakour Stevenson and WBC belt holder Gary Russell Junior were both men on Warrington’s radar as he sought to unify the featherweight division.

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But he believes his potential fight with Xu is the one that will have what will likely be a packed-out Headingley on the edge of their seats.

“It will be a barnstormer,” said Warrington.

“When you look at the other champions in the division, Gary Russell and Shakour Stevenson, you know the build up is going to be entertaining.

“But is the fight going to be entertaining because, Shakour Stevenson likes to move on the back foot and Gary Russell is known for his speed but doesn’t work too much. He chooses when he wants to do his work.

“But with Can Xu, you know as soon as that first bell goes, he is running to the centre of the ring and going hell for leather and obviously I like to do that as well.”

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Xu has lost two of his 20 fights, winning the other 18 and has been WBA World Champion since January 2019.

Warrington admits he did have his sights fixed on Gary Russell, who has been WBC champion since 2015 and recently defended his title with a unanimous decision win over Tugstsogt Nyambayar in February.

And the IBF champion feels that Russell is “there for the taking” if a fight can be arranged after his bout with China’s Xu.

“Sometimes fighters get a gut-feeling and you have to go with that gut feeling,” added Warrington.

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“Like the Selby fight, there were many things we saw that we knew we could expose.

“Gary Russell is a great fighter and he has got great speed but he is there for the taking.

“But the Can Xu fight will be an excellent fight as well.”

The British Boxing Board of Control have suspended all events until the end of April following the Covid-19 pandemic which has put the entire sporting calendar on hold.

The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo were the latest event to be postponed and while Warrington admits training for a fight that has no date is frustrating, he will be ready when the time comes to step back into the ring.

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He added: “It is frustrating. I was getting all giddy for a potential big fight.

“I couldn’t even train I was that excited about what could potentially come but then shows got pulled left, right and centre and things went out the window.

“But I then I think to myself that there are people in worse situations and you have just got to get on with it.

“I am not in a bad position at this moment in time. You have got to look at people who are slaving away in hospitals and working all hours under the sun. It could be worse.”

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He also offered advice to younger professionals, adding: “If you don’t think you are going to have a fight soon, learn your craft. Work on your jab, work on your footwork and your defence.

“I am probably a bog-standard boxer who has got to the top by working and working and trying to perfect my craft and never being satisfied.”