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Josh Warrington vacates title after IBF refuses to sanction Xu Can unification

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Warrington fights Mauricio Lara on February 13th

Josh Warrington Press Conference Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Josh Warrington is chasing the best fights the featherweight division has to offer, but he’ll be doing so without any hardware around his waist for the moment. Matchroom announced via press release that he’s vacated his IBF title “after the IBF refused to sanction his proposed unification fight in April.”

Said unification fight would have pitted him against WBA “world” champion Xu Can (18-2, 3 KO), who reportedly balked at a February clash behind closed doors and left Warringon (30-0, 7 KO) to stay busy against Mauricio Lara on the 13th. Though neither the press release nor the IBF itself provide the rationale behind the decision, we can make an educated guess.

Even the IBF, which has what’s essentially a zero-tolerance policy for neglecting mandatory challengers, will usually allow unification to proceed with the expectation that the winner then fight the aforementioned mandatory. However, Xu’s title is secondary, and the (cretinous) WBA refuse to elevate him to “super” champion despite Leo Santa Cruz seemingly leaving the division behind. As such, they likely demanded that Warrington rematch mandatory challenger Kid Galahad instead.

With Warrington’s exit, we can expect the IBF to order Galahad vs. #3 Jazza Dickens, who won last year’s MTK Global Contract tournament.

Eddie Hearn claims he’s also made inroads towards a clash with WBC champion Gary Russel l Jr., but as it’s no longer a unification match, Warrington likely can’t supersede mandatory challenger Rey Vargas. Considering Russell’s usual schedule, that could delay a Warrington fight until 2022 or later.

Whatever the case, I respect Warrington for chasing glory. Let’s hope we see him lock horns with the division’s best this year.

“It’s so important for Josh to be in a mega fight after Lara on February 13,” said Matchroom Sport Managing Director Eddie Hearn. “He has his heart set on the Ring belt and it’s up to us to make the Can or Russell fights for April or early May. I’ve been working hard with Robert Diaz of Golden Boy to close Xu Can and also had several conversations with Luis De Cubas regarding a Gary Russell bout – both fights are Fight of the Year contenders.”

“It’s disappointing we couldn’t have the IBF Title on the line, but I can’t let those decisions stand in the way of me going down in British boxing history by facing the very best in the division,” said Warrington. “I’ve always dreamt about winning the Ring belt, for me it leaves no doubt who the king of the division is. Right now, my mind and focus is on Lara for February 13 and then I’m looking to pick up that beautiful red and blue belt.”