It’s time to take a look at the Featherweight unification match that has a contender for 2020 fight of the year written all over it. That match is IBF champ and Leeds boy Josh Warrington v WBA regular champ Can ‘Monster’ Xu.
As soon as this fight was announced we knew to mark the date off in our calendars. While Warrington was trading jibes with Shakur Stevenson online and had spoken openly about wanting to face Gary Russel Jr, Can Xu is the opponent who will give Warrington and fans the most interesting night.
Stylistically these men have a huge amount in common and facing them off should produce one of the highest output fights of the last decade. Warrington has a genuinely freakish level of cardio, throwing as rapidly and quickly in the last rounds as from the opening bell. While he hasn’t displayed the 1-punch-KO power of Stevenson, Warrington enters the ring ready to take every opponent to deep water, exhausting them like a heavy tide with his tireless barrages of awkward combination punching.
The IBF Featherweight champ, 30-0 with 3 successful defenses, looks like he gets stronger the longer the fight goes on, maintaining his output while his opponent’s pales in comparison. He’s a smart and varied puncher, remaining unpredictable as he surges forward from different angles. Warrington frequently throws 5+ punch combinations, causing his opponents to shell up as they struggle to predict when they can fire shots back.
Fighters who want to avoid getting into a dogfight are out of luck against ‘The Leeds Warrior’, who maintains his educated pressure at all times, keeping his opposition on the back foot. From the opening bell, Warrington will come out firing out of his corner to claim the ring and take the fight straight to Xu, there will be very little time spent by either fighter tentatively feeling each other out.
Warrington is never a boring fighter to watch for these exact reasons, his incredible stamina allows him to constantly fire off shots and he uses that to tire people out. He also isn’t afraid, despite not having displayed much KO power, to stand and trade leather with the best of them. Warrington is a nightmare to face, equally happy to apply pressure intelligently as he is to swing for the fences if that’s what you offer him.
While the conventional wisdom goes that if a fighter pushes too hard and tries to smother you, you can box defensively and wait for him to tire out. But as many boxers have found, Warrington isn’t the first to tire despite being the one with the higher output. He also doesn’t scare easily, so hitting him flush will a big shot won’t stop him from walking you down, if anything it’ll just open you up for to a combo in response.
His confidence in his gas tank has led to him being one of the best volume punchers in the game today when he chooses to go that way. He pairs it with a fantastic understanding of how to box unpredictably and intelligently as he’s coming forward. Not only does he tire you out physically with the constant pressure, but the Leeds man also tires you out mentally by falling in and out of patterns so you can never quite find his rhythm.
This complete style is remarkably similar to the man he’ll be facing towards the end of this year. Can Xu, standing 5’9″, has a 2-inch height and reach advantage over Warrington and is generally the taller fighter in the Featherweight division. Xu, like Warrington, has an incredible reserve of energy that he utilizes to the fullest by applying constant pressure.
I have always enjoyed watching two pressure fighters try to out punch each other, as those matches are the ones you can’t risk looking away from. This one will be no different, as Xu will come rushing out of his corner like he always does, this time meeting an equally ready Warrington in the center.
Out of the two Xu usually has a higher output, but he isn’t quite as multi-faceted. While Warrington varies his approach a lot more, avoiding coming straight down the front, Xu can tend to walk straight forward. That’s not to say he doesn’t work the angles, he just doesn’t mix it up as frequently as the more unpredictable Warrington. To make up for this Xu just keeps punching, non-stop, from bell to bell.
Xu is also incredibly accurate and is fantastic at switching levels to confuse boxers. Take this combination he threw against Shun Kubo in round 5 of his last fight: jab, straight, right uppercut, straight, lead uppercut, straight, lead hook. All of seven of those punches landed flush, through or around Shun Kubo’s guard, as Xu switched from the body to head. Kubo also kept getting hit by long combinations throughout the fight because after Xu threw 3-4 punches, he thought the combo was over and tried to punch back, but Xu would just keep the combo going.
The fight between Warrington and Xu is going to be a war of attrition fought between two men who have supreme confidence in their stamina. Both Xu and Warrington are happy to get hit back and don’t like giving up the ring. Both men like keeping their opponent on the back foot and favor punch volume over power.
It’s a dream matchup for the fans but a nightmare matchup for both men. Expect Xu to throw more punches and look to overwhelm Warrington from the opening bell. Xu will often come straight forward, he won’t throw as hard, but his combinations will be fast, long, and accurate.
Warrington should look to meet Xu’s high output with high violence, he’ll throw the harder shots and make Xu think twice about being so offensive. Expect Warrington to throw an obscene number of punches also, less than Xu, but to throw more power punches. Warrington will be keen to meet Xu in the middle of the ring, but will probably be happy to let him take the center, so he can circle around him and work from a variety of angles.
This fight could end up being nominated for the fight of the year. Ultimately, we see Xu narrowly winning the earlier rounds, with Warrington taking the mid to late rounds as he wears Xu down. Both men will end the fight exhausted, Xu will be the more hurt, and Warrington will have unified the IBF and WBA titles, becoming the only current unified Featherweight champion.
What do you think about our analysis and fight prediction? Let us know your thoughts and tell us what you think we got right or wrong.
If you want to see these men at their best be sure to watch Warrington v Lee Selby, Carl Frampton, and Kid Galahad. Watch Xu v Manny Robles III or Shun Kubo.