IBF Refused To Recognize Xu Can as WBA Champion

Josh Warrington’s fight with Xu Can collapsed after the IBF refused to recognize the Chinese boxer as WBA featherweight champion.

Can holds the WBA’s “regular” title, while Leo Santa Cruz is their “super” champion. The WBA’s failure to upgrade Can to the senior belt after Santa Cruz boxed Gervonta Davis at super-featherweight led to the IBF refusing to sanction a Warrington-Can fight as a unification.

Warrington had been due to face Can on February 13, but promoter Eddie Hearn said that the Chinese boxer had not been keen to box in front of no fans, a decision that left Warrington furious. Instead, Warrington was matched with Mauricio Lara, of Mexico, with the aim if securing a fight against Can or Gary Russell, the WBC champion, in April or May.

But the Lara fight became a non-title affair when it was announced that Warrington had vacated the title after being ordered to face Galahad.

A Warrington-Can fight was first agreed to go ahead at Headingley Stadium in Leeds last June before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Galahad, who lost a split decision to Warrington for the IBF title in 2019, had earned the mandatory position again by beating Claudio Marrero in February.

The IBF made it clear from the start that they would not recognise a Warrington-Can fight as a unification unless Can was promoted to super champion, although it did grant Warrington an exemption to face Can for the IBF title only in March last year, under the conditions that the fight took place by the end of November and the winner would face Galahad within 90 days of that fight. 

After the fight did not take place, in late December, the IBF ordered Warrington to begin negotiations for a Galahad fight. If Warrington does secure a fight with Can or Russell it is likely to be for The Ring magazine belt as well as the opponent’s title.

Galahad is used to be avoided and every title he has ever won as a professional was vacant. These included the British super-bantamweight title, given up by Scott Quigg, and the Commonwealth and European super-bantamweight titles, given up by Carl Frampton.

That British title was secured with a win over Jazza Dickens in 2013 in Rotherham. Dickens is once again the boxer Galahad is likely to face for the vacant IBF title eight years later.

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.