Ricky Burns switches promoters
Lightweight titleholder Ricky Burns bolted from promoter Frank Warren to sign with rival British promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport on Monday.
At a news conference in London, Hearn announced that he had signed Burns as well as a May 11 title defense in his native Scotland. Burns' opponent has not yet been determined, but Hearn said it won't be a title-unification fight with American Adrien Broner, a fight that Broner and Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer have been angling for.
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Burns had been scheduled for a title-unification fight with Mexico's Miguel Vazquez in London on March 16, but the fight, rumored to be in trouble for weeks, was called off last week when Vazquez withdrew, supposedly because of food poisoning.
That left Burns and manager Alex Morrison angry because it was the second fight since December that Burns had fall apart within a few weeks of the bout.
Although Warren announced that the fight -- and the rest of the card -- would be rescheduled for April 20, it was clear based on Morrison's comments to the media that they were finished with Warren and that Burns would not be fighting Vazquez -- or anyone else -- on an April 20 Warren-promoted card.
On Saturday, Hearn announced that he would hold a Monday news conference to unveil a "major signing." To nobody's surprise, it turned out to be the 29-year-old Burns (35-2, 10 KOs), a former junior lightweight titleholder.
Burns vacated his 130-pound world title to move up to the 135-pound lightweight division, where he won a world title last year and made two defenses, a lopsided unanimous decision against former titlist Paulus Moses and a fourth-round knockout of England's Kevin Mitchell in September.
Burns is the second Warren fighter to defect to Hearn's stable in the past two weeks. Super middleweight contender George Groves, who was scheduled to fight for the vacant European title on the Burns-Vazquez undercard, dumped Warren and signed with Hearn after the card fell through.
England's Groves (17-0, 13 KOs) returned to action and won Saturday night on a Hearn card in London and is already scheduled to fight again on May 25 in London on the undercard of the super middleweight world title rematch between Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch.
"I'm delighted that my future has been resolved, and I'm really looking forward to the next chapter of my career," Burns said. "It's been a frustrating time since the Kevin Mitchell win in September, but now I'm just focused on May 11 and putting in a great performance.
"I would love it to be in Glasgow. My last two fights were there, and the atmosphere was just electric. I've got great fans in Scotland, and it means a lot to box in front of them."
Hearn said at Monday's news conference that he's hoping to have Burns fight three times in nine months, beginning with the May 11 fight.
"I'm delighted to welcome the WBO lightweight world champion Ricky Burns to the team," Hearn said. "Ricky is an outstanding fighter and a hugely popular sporting figure in Scotland. We are looking forward to a massive show on May 11 in Scotland on Sky Sports [the United Kingdom subscription sports network with which Hearn has an exclusive deal] as we begin our journey with Ricky."
The intense rivalry between Hearn and Warren has become the United Kingdom's version of the American feud between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank. Warren claims he still has Burns under contract and said he plans to sue.
"Since being promoted and managed by Frank Warren, Ricky Burns has earned just approaching three-quarters of a million pounds and has had seven world title fights in just over two years," Richard Maynard, Warren's publicist, said in a statement on Warren's behalf. "Ricky Burns is under binding promotional and management contracts. Following the announcement by Eddie Hearn that Ricky Burns has signed with him, W. Promotions Limited [Warren's company] and Frank Warren are suing Burns for substantial damages."
Hearn recently beat Warren in court over a claim to light heavyweight contender Tony Bellew's contract and said he is not worried about more litigation with his rival.
"He is not under contract because Burns has terminated this agreement," Hearn said. "If Frank wishes to argue whether Ricky has grounds to terminate, then, no doubt, this will be discussed in a court of law. It's very similar to what just happened with Tony Bellew."
Warren, meanwhile, also announced that the April 20 card at Wembley Arena in London will go forward, just without Burns or Groves. Warren announced that light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly (25-0, 12 KOs), 26, of Wales, will defend against mandatory challenger Robin Krasniqi (39-2, 15 KOs), 25, of Germany, in the main event. Cleverly-Krasniqi was originally supposed to be the co-feature Saturday.
Warren also announced that the undercard will include Mitchell (33-2, 24 KOs), 28, in his first fight since the September loss to Burns. He will fight an opponent to be determined in a scheduled 10-rounder.
Also on the card: Former heavyweight title challenger Dereck Chisora (15-4, 9 KOs), 29, of England. is also due to appear as long as he is licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control, which revoked his license last year for disciplinary reasons. Commonwealth champion Liam Walsh (13-0, 10 KOs), 26, of England, is expected to appear in his first bout since suffering a back injury in a car accident last year that forced him to pull out of a December world title fight with Burns.
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