Josh Warrington’s rivals: Gary Russell Jr, Can Xu, Emanuel Navarrete lurk – how dangerous are they?
A trio of dangerous world champions are on the horizon and Josh Warrington knows that he can finally lure one of them into the ring if he remains unbeaten on Saturday night.
Warrington takes on Mauricio Lara on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, knowing that victory will give him the opportunity to prove he is the world’s No 1 featherweight against Gary Russell Jr, Can Xu or Emanuel Navarrete.
‘The Leeds Warrior’ vacated his IBF belt to smooth over negotiations with the trio of world champions – so how dangerous are they?
Not long to wait now…🙌 pic.twitter.com/sWrt9Tz38V
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Gary Russell Jr
The WBC featherweight champion is the longest-reigning champion in the entire sport.
But in the six years since Russell Jr won his belt, he has defended it just five times and has come under criticism for his inactivity.
He has won 31 of his 32 fights – the only defeat came against Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound great, via majority decision in 2014.
A post shared by Gary Russell Jr (@mrgaryrusselljr)
Warrington said about Russell Jr: “Sometimes fighters just get a gut feeling and sometimes you’ve got to run with that gut feeling.
“Just like with the [Lee] Selby fight, I have seen many things that I thought that we could expose, and I see it with Gary Russell Jr.
“He’s a great fighter. He’s got a lot of speed, but he’s there for taking. He iss there for the taking and he has got a green and gold belt, man, the WBC belt, so I love that fight as a massive scalp.”
Russell Jr is advised by Al Haymon and has never fought outside of the US.
Warrington has a grudge to settle with the WBA champion from China.
Xu, nicknamed ‘Monster’, was initially supposed to be Warrington’s opponent this weekend in a world title unification fight but withdrew claiming that he wanted to fight in front of a crowd.
“I was close to tears,” admitted Warrington who must now edge past Lara on Saturday to tempt Xu back into battle.
A post shared by 徐灿Xu Can (@xucan_monster)
The Brit had previously said about his Chinese rival: “You put us in a phone box, a very entertaining fight. He throws a lot of punches, I throw a lot of punches.”
Xu’s work-rate and speed is summed up by the incredible statistic that he once threw 1,562 punches in a 12-round fight, amounting to 130 per round.
He has won 18 of his 20 fights – the defeats were in four and six-round bouts in the early stage of his career.
Xu is now promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy and won his WBA belt on US soil. Three of his past four fights have been in the US.
The WBO champion is the newest rival on the scene, having only moved into the featherweight division in October.
Shakur Stevenson was previously the unbeaten target of Warrington’s who held the WBO gold.
The talented American was a 2016 Olympic silver medallist and Warrington said about him: “I’m not saying he wouldn’t be a tough fight. But he hasn’t been in deep water situations.”
But Stevenson vacated his belt and moved up a division – he was replaced as title holder by Navarrete, who is now a two-weight world champion having previously held WBO super-bantamweight gold.
A post shared by Emanuel Navarrete Martínez (@emanuel_vaquero_navarrete)
Navarrete twice floored the previously-unbeaten Ruben Villa four months ago to capture the WBO featherweight title.
What may separate the Mexican nicknamed ‘Vaquero’ or ‘Cowboy’ is his power – 27 of his 32 wins have come inside the distance, a frighteningly high percentage for the division.
He is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank meaning negotiations to fight Warrington would be between the same promoters who are currently discussing Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury.
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