- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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As soon as the March 16 lightweight unification fight between Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez was postponed on Monday, it was clear that the relationship between Burns and promoter Frank Warren had been badly fractured. Now it appears that it's finished, as Burns seems poised to defect to rival British promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport.
It's a move many have expected in the wake of the March 16 fight unraveling, and Hearn added fuel to the fire Saturday by issuing a press release inviting media to attend a news conference in London to announce "a major signing."
If the fighter is Burns -- and all indications are that it is -- he would be the second major Warren fighter to jump ship to Hearn in a week. Super middleweight contender George Groves, who was due to fight for the vacant European title on the March 16 undercard, bolted from Warren's group and signed with Hearn after the show fell through.
When I asked Matchroom Sport public relations director Anthony Leaver if Hearn would be announcing that he had signed Burns, his answer was, "I can neither confirm nor deny."
Burns and manager Alex Morrison were angry with Warren that it was Burns' second fight in a row that was called off on short notice after going through two training camps -- at his expense -- and not getting to fight (and, therefore, not getting paid).
Supposedly, Mexico's Vazquez dropped out of the fight in London because of food poisoning. But for weeks, talk had swirled throughout the boxing industry that the fight -- the whole card, really -- was in trouble and that Vazquez was unhappy with his purse.
Whatever the reason the fight was really called off, Warren said it would be rescheduled for April 20 and produced a doctor's note backing up Vazquez's illness claim.
That's too little, too late. Few believe the illness was real -- especially Morrison, who claimed Vazquez was seen sparring just a few days after his supposed illness.
Morrison told Scotland's Edinburgh Evening News that Burns is done with Warren, who had to cancel a December title defense for Burns when Liam Walsh was injured in a car accident and replacement opponent Jose Ocampo dropped out for reasons that were never made clear.
"I regret it has come to this, because I have known Frank for nearly 40 years, but it has to be for Ricky's sake," Morrison told the newspaper. "I felt we had to do something to stop Ricky stagnating. Two fights have been called off after he has trained hard for them, and it was not even certain that the bout with Vazquez would have gone ahead on April 20. In fact, I now doubt very much that fight was ever going to happen."
Hearn said in his news conference announcement that he would outline the plans for his latest signing. If the deal is with Burns, it's not out of the question that those plans could include a unification fight with Adrien Broner on June 15 in Las Vegas.
Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer reiterated Friday that he wants to make Broner-Burns, regardless of who promotes Burns, although Schaefer said nobody from Golden Boy had contacted Morrison or Burns about signing him.
Schaefer said he got an email from Warren, whom he said he has a good relationship with, indicating that Burns was still under contract.
"Frank told me he still has a contract with Burns, and a fighter can't just walk away from a contract and say he's a free agent. That's not how it works," Schaefer said. "Besides, I'm not in the business of stealing fighters from other promoters."
Schaefer said if he doesn't make Broner-Burns for June 15 that another possibility for Broner is a June 22 fight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., for which Broner would move up two weight classes to challenge Paulie Malignaggi, of Brooklyn, for his belt.
As soon as the March 16 lightweight unification fight between Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez was postponed on Monday, it was clear that the relationship between Burns and promoter Frank Warren had been badly fractured.