China’s WBA champion raring for step up in class against British brawler

Chinese boxer Xu Can has vowed to show the world exactly why he’s known as “The Monster” when he steps into the ring for the biggest fight of his career later this year.

Since wresting the World Boxing Association featherweight belt off Puerto Rico’s Jesus Rojas in Houston in January 2019, Xu has been missing the buzz of knowing another major bout is around the corner.

Now that wait is over, with Xu (18-2, 3 KOs) landing the divisional unification bout he craved against the International Boxing Federation’s titleholder Josh Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs).

Terms have been agreed, with the fight slated to be staged in the Brit’s native Leeds this year, Warrington’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed last week.

The exact date has yet to be determined due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reports have suggested the venue will be Headingley Stadium, the home of two Leeds rugby teams and Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“The night I was told the fight is happening, I was so excited I couldn’t fall asleep. A fight like this is so appealing to me that it will no doubt drive me crazy to train hard,” Xu told China Daily by telephone on Sunday.

Training hard, though, is not so straightforward these days, with Xu currently observing a 14-day quarantine in Yunnan province upon his arrival from a promotional tour in Thailand on Saturday.

Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz, who has been in Xu’s corner for the title victory over Rojas and two successful defenses, cannot currently return to China due to the country’s temporary entry ban on foreigners in an effort to stop imported COVID-19 cases.

Despite the challenging circumstances, China’s only reigning boxing world champion has pledged to come out all guns blazing when the first bell eventually sounds against Warrington.

“It’s a no-brainer for me. Even with the risk of losing my belt and all the momentum I’ve gained on my upswing, I just want to go all in to prepare for it to the best of my abilities,” said Xu, a native of East China’s Jiangxi province who turned 26 earlier this month.

With the WBA and IBF featherweight titles and The Ring magazine’s coveted championship belt all on the line, the mouth-watering matchup is shaping up to be one of the fights of the year.

And Warrington is confident that the clash of two ferocious attacking styles will make for gripping viewing for fight fans.

During an Instagram live discussion with Hearn last week, the 28-year-old Warrington, aka “The Leeds Warrior”, said: “It’ll be a barnstormer. When you look at the other champions in the division-Gary Russell Jr. and Shakur Stevenson-you know that the buildup is going to be entertaining, but is their fight going to be as entertaining?

“You know as soon as that first bell goes, he (Xu) is going out to the center of the ring. He’s sitting on his punches and he’s throwing hell for leather.

“I like to do that as well. We want to be part of memorable fights. That’s all I want to be a part of. If you can imagine a massive stadium fight with a mad atmosphere.”

Xu, who threw a staggering 1,562 punches in his most recent defense against Manny Robles III in California last November, is also psyched to be facing off against a tough opponent who favors a high-energy approach.

“I think to always step up the challenge and to face an opponent who is much stronger than your last is the best way to demonstrate the value and strength of a fighter rather than just managing to retain your belt,” said Xu, who will become the world’s only unified champion in the division and the first from China to do so if he wins.

As of December 2019, Warrington was ranked as the world’s best active featherweight by Box-Rec.com and The Ring.

Having tested negative for COVID-19 upon his arrival in Kunming, Xu said he will remain in Yunnan’s capital following the completion of his mandatory two-week isolation period to practice without Diaz and take advantage of the city’s high-altitude environment.

Better defense, quicker footwork and stronger cardio endurance will be keywords for his pre-fight training camp, Xu revealed.

“I am going to raise my game and show the world that I am how people call me in the ring. Both myself and my team are confident for the fight,” he said.

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