Josh Warrington was 'close to shedding tears' after Xu Can suddenly pulled out of world title unification clash

Josh Warrington on Xu Can: "We had more of less been preparing for this fight since when I signed back up with Matchroom. That was the one we wanted." IBF champion will instead fight Mauricio Lara on February 13, live on Sky Sports

Josh Warrington
Image: Josh Warrington has vented his frustration at change of opponent

Josh Warrington admits he was "close to shedding tears" after rival world champion Xu Can suddenly pulled out of a world title unification clash.

The IBF featherweight champion was set to face Can, the WBA title holder, next month in a fight that could have strengthened Warrington's position as the No 1 in the division.

Josh Warrington
Image: Warrington wants to cement his status as the world's best featherweight

But the Leeds man was denied the opportunity to add another belt when Can abruptly withdrew from the planned fight, meaning that Warrington will instead take on Mexico's Mauricio Lara on February 13, live on Sky Sports.

"I was close to shedding tears," Warrington told Sky Sports News. "I'm not an emotional man like that, but it takes a toll on you mentally.

"A lot of people don't know that this fight has been on the cards for a long, long time.

"We had more or less been preparing for this fight since when I signed back up with Matchroom. That was the one we wanted.

"The announcement was about to go out, around Christmas Eve time, then it was going to be Boxing Day, then it was going to be before New Year.

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"I've got the artwork for the poster, all the game-plan has been about Can Xu, all the sparring partners have been tailored to his traits. Of a night time, I'm visualising Can Xu. My team are studying Can Xu, we've got loads of data on him.

"All of a sudden, it's not happening."

The unbeaten 30-year-old still intends to produce a dominant title defence against Lara, but has questioned why the Chinese fighter rejected the chance of a high stakes showdown.

Warrington said: "As a fighter, why would you not want to take that top spot?

"The IBF belt was still on the line, 'The Ring Magazine' belt was still on the line. The guy was getting a career-best pay day, so I just can't understand the reason for it not happening.

"If he wants a crowd to jump on board, we never know when crowds are going to come up here."

A unification clash can still happen?

Promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed that he still intends to deliver a fight with Xu, or WBC title holder Gary Russell Jr.

"It has been so frustrating for him," Hearn told Sky Sports News. "We spoke about the Can Xu fight, who was coming over from China and who wanted to fight in front of a crowd.

"All of a sudden, we were in lockdown and there we travel restrictions so Warrington will fight a tough Mexican in Lara.

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Warrington has produced exciting wins in front of his hometown fans

"Warrington is one of the biggest names, the biggest stars, the top pound-for-pound fighters in British boxing. It's amazing to see him back.

"He has to put in a really big performance because I want him back out in April or May against Can Xu or Gary Russell Jr.

"He won't have his Leeds army which will be difficult for him! But he will be looking to make a major statement.

"He is used to fanatical support but is restricted to behind closed doors - how will he perform?

"He has to be professional, workmanlike, do his job and come through this before a big fight in April."

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