Josh Warrington To Return Feb. 13; Xu Can Title Unification Bout Eyed For Springtime

Josh Warrington’s 2021 campaign will include a showdown with Xu Can, just not in his very next fight.

An announcement in the coming days from Matchroom Boxing will include the unbeaten IBF featherweight champ as part of its first quarter schedule, though no longer in a title unification bout, promoter Eddie Hearn informed BoxingScene.com on Wednesday. Warrington will remain the main event slot of a February 13 show which leads a loaded schedule in the weeks to come.

“We’ve been working hard with Robert Diaz and Golden Boy to get this fight made but we are going to have to wait a little longer,” Hearn told BoxingScene.com.

An opponent for Warrington is expected to be finalized in time for Matchroom’s UK schedule reveal on Friday.

Warrington (30-0, 7KOs) has not fought since a 2nd round wipeout of Sofiane Takoucht atop an Oct. 2019 show in his hometown of Leeds, England. The long-reigning featherweight titlist has since signed with Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing outfit, with his intended debut to have come in a two-belt unification clash with China’s Xu (18-2, 3KOs) only for such plans to be delayed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

While the sport as a whole has since resumed, the ability to stage events in front of live crowds remains an issue. Just one such show has taken place in the United Kingdom, with unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua scoring a 9th round knockout of Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev with fans in attendance in their Dec. 12th clash at SSE Arena, Wembley.

Another lockdown has since come in the U.K., wiping out all scheduled bouts in January. The British Boxing Board of Control has since declared that boxing events can resume beginning in mid-February, prompting Matchroom to put its best foot forward in delivering a block of shows.  

A fight between Warrington and Xu was intended to lead things off but will instead move towards Matchroom’s springtime schedule. The slight delay should work in favor of the fight becoming an event, given Warrington’s massive drawing power in his home region.

“After we brought fans back in December, we hoped we would be in a position to have attendance for this fight and it deserves it,” notes Hearn. “After a long layoff Josh will still return on Feb 13 and if victorious will hopefully face Xu in April or early May.”

Warrington has won the IBF featherweight title following a 12-round decision over Lee Selby in front of a sold-out hometown crowd at Elland Road Football Ground in Leeds. Three defenses have followed, most notably a competitive but clear 12-round nod over former two-division titlist Carl Frampton in Dec. 2018. The win was followed by a hard-fought split decision victory over unbeaten Kid Galahad in June 2019 before proceeding to stop Takoucht inside of two rounds later that October.

Xu has not fought since a 12-round decision victory over Manny Robles III in Nov. 2019. The free-swinging volume puncher from Beijing has made two defenses of the secondary WBA title he wrested in a points win over Jesus Rojas in Jan. 2019. Hopes of an upgrade to WBA “Super” featherweight title status reside on the sanctioning body forcing the hand of Leo Santa Cruz, who still retains that belt despite not having fought at the weight since Feb. 2019.

Warrington and Xu are the first and third highest ranked active featherweights according to RingTV.com, ESPN.com and TBRB.com.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox