FRANK WARREN last night announced impending legal action against Ricky Burns, the World Boxing Organisation lightweight champion from Coatbridge.
The 29-year-old was yesterday unveiled by promoter Eddie Hearn as the latest addition to the Matchroom Sport stable of boxers, but Warren, Burns' former promoter, intends to sue the boxer for breach of contract after it was claimed by sources close to Warren that Burns remains contracted to the London fight manager for a further three bouts.
The statement read: "Since being promoted and managed by Frank Warren, Ricky Burns has earned just approaching £¾m and has had seven world title fights in just more than two years. Ricky Burns is under binding promotional and management contacts.
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"Following the announcement by Eddie Hearn that Ricky Burns has signed with him, W Promotions Limited and Frank Warren are suing Burns for substantial damages."
Hearn announced in the interim that Burns will make the third defence of his crown on May 11, almost certainly in Glasgow at a choice of venues including the Emirates Arena, the SECC and the Kelvin Hall.
However Burns' next big contest may take place in a courtroom, judging by the tone of Warren's statement and the possible financial implications for the champion.
Hearn, for his part, appeared to distance himself from direct involvement in any legal proceedings that are brought against Burns.
"Once we receive confirmation from the fighter's legal team that he has ended or terminated his agreement, it's between the two parties to discuss whether that has been done rightly or wrongly," said Hearn. "I've seen that letter of termination and I have had advice from our lawyers. I am very comfortable.
"Ricky has terminated that agreement and it's up to those two. If Frank Warren feels he has terminated that agreement wrongly, I have no doubt that they will meet each other in a court of law.
"But having seen that letter, I would be very comfortable if I was Ricky Burns. We've been through issues before with Frank Warren and had no problems. I expected this, but it's something we get on with and there will be no issues around the May 11 fight.
"I'm delighted to welcome Ricky Burns to the team. He is a fantastic signing, as he is one of only three world champions in Great Britain. He is an outstanding fighter and a highly popular figure in Scotland.
"The plan is for him to have three fights, in May, September and December, because we want him fighting regularly."
Hearn confirmed that he will name Burns' opponent and the venue on Thursday when he travels to Glasgow to finalise details.
Burns had been due to face Miguel Vazquez this weekend, but the Mexican went down with a viral infection and the bout was rescheduled for April 20, prompting Burns and his manager, Alex Morrison, to split with Warren.
Burns has not fought since last September when he stopped Londoner Kevin Mitchell in four rounds at the SECC in Glasgow.
A planned defence against Liam Walsh in December had to be called off when the Englishman was injured in a car crash and replacement Jose Ocampo also withdrew at short notice.
Burns said: "I'm delighted that my future has been resolved and I'm really looking forward to the next chapter in my career.
"At the end of the day, Frank Warren has got me in the position I am now but over the last year or so a few issues needed to be resolved and the last couple of fights have not gone to plan. It's been a frustrating time but now I'm focused on May 11."