Ricky Burns, the WBO lightweight champion, is expected to leave Frank Warren and join the steadily expanding Matchroom stable on Monday, although there could be further twists to the story.
The news should be confirmed at a press conference at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane and would bookend seven days of rolling drama, in which the unbeaten young super-middleweight George Groves also joined Warren's main rival.
The Matchroom managing director, Eddie Hearn, refused to confirm or deny the move on Saturday night, but I understand the deal has already been agreed and Burns is scheduled to be at the press conference. As late as Friday afternoon, Warren was adamant Burns would have to honour an agreement to defend his title against the IBF champion Miguel Vazquez at Wembley Arena on 20 April.
The fighter was committed to the unification contest at the same venue on 16 March, but, when the promotion was postponed after Vazquez announced he was suffering from a stomach ailment – and Groves also withdrew – the Scot's manager, Alex Morrison, signalled his intention to take his client elsewhere. If Burns moves, Warren will be left with a thinning card for his Wembley show, to be headlined by Nathan Cleverly in a mandatory defence of his WBO light-heavyweight title against the dangerous Serb Robin Krasniqi. While Groves left Warren on mutually agreeable terms, Burns's move could be more complicated.
"I have a contract with Ricky," Warren told me on Friday. "I like Ricky, I don't want to fall out with him, and I'm not making any other statements about it. Vazquez is contracted to box Ricky Burns on that date. And he has confirmed that he will fight on that date. Everybody seems to be cancelling it except me – and I'm the one who's putting up the money."
Warren said he was about to secure Burns a major unification fight with the rising American Adrien Broner, who retained his WBC title with a fourth-round stoppage of Hearn's Welsh challenger Gavin Rees in Atlantic City last month. Broner, one of the hottest properties in boxing, has a date inked in for the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, on 15 June.
Although no opponent has been announced, Richard Schaefer, the chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, was quoted on The Ring magazine's website on Saturday as saying: "I'm going to talk to Frank [Warren] again on Monday, and I'm going to make it publicly known as well that if he wants to fight Adrien Broner, that we are ready to go – if that's what he wants. So we're going to do one of two things. We're going to go June 15 from the Mandalay Bay with Broner against Burns, or, we're going to go June 22 with Broner against Paulie Malignaggi at Barclays Center [in New York]. Paulie has agreed to the fight."
Warren, meanwhile, says he is issuing legal warnings to various newspapers, websites and others. "Not one person has picked up the phone to any of the organisations asking about our agreement being lodged on behalf of Vazquez. All of these people, including Alex Morrison… some time early this evening, certainly no later than Monday, [they] will all be receiving solicitor's letters asking for apologies and damages."
Hearn and Warren have been locked in a power struggle at the summit of British boxing for the past couple of years, but are conducting the battle on different fronts. Hearn has a major Sky contract for boxing, as well as darts and snooker, and will be keen to add to the 20 boxing dates he has already secured to accommodate the steady flow of fighters seeking to join him.
Warren, meanwhile, has been showcasing his fighters on a boxing-only subscription channel, BoxNation, with the help of several backers. "How many people know that we've launched a TV channel in the worst economic climate there's ever been?" Warren said. "You'll see some seriously good announcements next week."
Groves, the British and Commonwealth champion at 12 stone, celebrated his move to Matchroom with an impressive third-round stoppage of Dario German Balmaceda, of Argentina, in a non-title bout at an agreed 12st 3lb at Wembley Arena on Saturday night – the same venue he was due to appear in for Warren on 16 March.
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