Xu's blockbuster British bout finally in the works

2021-01-04 12:06:56

IBF champion Josh Warrington (left) of Britain is close to finalizing a deal to take on China's WBA champ Xu Can (right) in a featherweight unification bout in February, according to sources in the UK. AP/XINHUA After a year of frustration, China's champ closes on February ring return Xu Can is a young champion with old-school values when it comes to the integrity of the World Boxing Association featherweight title he won two years ago this month. The 26-year-old power puncher from Fuzhou, Jiangxi province, is China's only current world titleholder but has not fought since defending his crown with a 12-round unanimous decision over American Manny Robles in November 2019. In limbo during the pandemic while awaiting a title-unification bout with unbeaten International Boxing Federation champ Josh Warrington of Britain (30-0, 7 KOs), Xu (18-2, 3 KOs), has struggled to stay motivated-but now it appears his patience will pay off. Sources in the UK told China Daily on the weekend that Warrington and Xu are close to finalizing a deal for a February showdown in Warrington's hometown of Leeds, with the fight streamed worldwide on DAZN and airing live on Sky Sports in Britain. "I've been confused. I don't know how long to wait, because I've been waiting from the beginning of 2020 until now," Xu said in a recent interview with Chinanews.com. "Agents, promoters, even coaches, sometimes tell me there might be a fight, and to start preparing. After preparing, they suddenly said it cannot be done and I have to take a break. "I'm tired of waiting; I want to be a fighting champion. Many professional fighters I know have retired and become coaches because there is really no competition during these times. Some even changed careers and got other jobs. But I have to fight. It's my job. After all, I have waited for a year for the chance to face Warrington. My next goal is a unification war." Xu, who became China's first WBA champ when he beat Puerto Rico's Jesus Rojas for the title in January 2019, is recognized by Ring magazine as the No 3 featherweight in the world, and after dropping two decisions early in his career, he's flourished with an all-action style under the banner of Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. The 30-year-old Warrington has held the IBF title since 2018, when he beat Lee Selby in a split decision. He has successfully defended the belt three times. Matchroom Promotions boss Eddie Hearn, who signed Warrington shortly before the pandemic, said: "This is one of the best fights you can make in boxing. Two fighters who throw hundreds of punches per round. It'll be non-stop, like Duracell bunnies. "We signed Josh three or four weeks before the world changed forever, and because this guy is one of the biggest ticket-sellers in boxing, we want to bring the fans back for him. A fight with Xu will do that." Meanwhile, 2012 Olympian and No 1 IBF light heavyweight contender Meng Fanlong (16-0, 10 KOs) is now a promotional free agent after reaching a separation agreement with New Jersey-based Roc Nation. "I'm very happy to be a free agent," the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) southpaw from Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, told boxingscene.com. "I have the best team around me-my advisers Terry and Tommy Lane, my trainer Shaun George, my attorney Scott Shaffer and my Chinese representative Kurt Li. They are building a solid plan for my career and I am really looking forward to the future. I am still the mandatory challenger in the IBF.Let's get it on!" Meng, who lives and trains in the US, earned the IBF's No 1 ranking with a 2019 victory over then-undefeated Adam Deines of Germany and was set to fight unified titleholder Artur Beterbiev last March, but the pandemic prevented the bout from taking place. Meng's most recent fight was a second-round stoppage of Mexico's Gilberto Rubio in the US in October 2019. "We can't wait for people to see him in action," said Meng's adviser, Tommy Lane. "He is one of the best in boxing today but has yet to fight on a major platform, and that's a shame. We hope to change that very soon. We are currently fielding different opportunities for Fanlong." Punch lines: Zhang Zhaoxin of Minqin, Gansu province, won the WBC's vacant Asian Boxing Council cruiserweight championship with a ninth-round KO of Wang Jianzheng from Pingdu, Shandong province, on Dec 26 at the Crowne Plaza in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. It was a rematch of their November 2019 bout that saw Zhang win by TKO in the first round. Zhang is now 10-1-1 with 6 KOs, while Wang drops to 9-2... Four-division and reigning WBO junior bantamweight champion Kazuto Ioka of Japan stopped previously unbeaten compatriot Kosei Tanaka in eight rounds in their Dec 30 title bout in Tokyo.