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The suspected gangster at the heart of world boxing


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The Dubliner may not have had any formal connection with MTK but he was advising Tyson Fury and many other MTK boxers. He was even advising Vaughan, as she later confirmed.

Daniel Kinahan and the company he founded were joined at the hip, if not on the dotted line.

When he moved to Dubai, MTK Global followed – setting up its headquarters there in 2018.  Its stock was rising in world boxing. More and more fighters were joining up. Talent like Belfast’s Carl Frampton.

In hushed and sometimes almost furtive conversations, managers and trainers across Britain and Ireland have complained bitterly to us about MTK’s increasing power in the game. Some had lost fighters to MTK. But only one was prepared to speak publicly.

Barry McGuigan once strode across the boxing world as one of the most popular and talented fighters on the planet. When he retired, he became a boxing manager. 

He has now lost five boxers to MTK’s pulling power.

“Me and my boys had invested 18 years of our lives in those five fighters that left,” he tells me.

I put to him that his complaints could be dismissed as sour grapes.

“That’s a fair comment. But put yourself in my position. You invest financially in these kids. You take them on and then out of the blue they’re unhappy and they’re gone.”

The fact is that MTK and Kinahan were hurtling to the very top of boxing. Helped in large part by the remarkable rejuvenation of Tyson Fury, who was winning over America with astonishing performances.

And in March 2019, a crucial link up was made with Bob Arum, just about the most influential  player in US boxing. The big television money followed. A five-fight deal worth $100m capped them all.

Bob Arum and Daniel Kinahan

Officially, Kinahan had nothing to do with these deals. Remember MTK had cut its ties with him. There was no word about him even when Fury secured the world title again this time last year.

But MTK was no longer a start-up. With more than 200 boxers on its books it was the biggest boxing management in Europe, maybe the world

It looked set to be centrally involved in what many people are calling the biggest fight in British boxing history – Fury against Joshua.

This was the moment, in the late spring and early summer of 2020 when it appears Daniel Kinahan decided to claim his place in the boxing limelight.

Tyson Fury then did his act of acclimation, praising him for setting up the big fight.

In the media swirl came interviews with promoters Eddie Hearn and Bob Arum. Arum gushed about Daniel Kinahan, calling him his “captain”.

“I am not naive about Daniel and his past. As long as I understand that dealing in this area,  sport, they are honourable, they are smart and are not doing anything that is anyway devious or wrong, why wouldn’t I deal with him? “

Hearn said: “He is the guy leading this Tyson Fury ship. Everyone knows, particularly in boxing, that he represents a number of high profile boxers, [and] has represented Tyson Fury for a number of years.”

Hearn has worked with Kinahan for years. His company told Panorama he has no influence over the people boxers choose to have within their management team.

MTK boss Sandra Vaughan, who had told the world that MTK had no ties with Kinahan, clarified the relationship with the alleged gangster.

“I will always go to Daniel for advice,” she trumpeted. “Does he personally advise other high-profile people? Bob Arum?  He speaks to Frank [Warren]. He speaks to Eddie.

“If anybody in the boxing world is doing any type of business in boxing and doesn’t speak to Daniel, or speak to someone that speaks to Daniel, they are telling lies”.

Pat Leahy, now retired but who had previously had to police the fallout of the Regency shooting, puts it this way: “I think he was trying to launder his name. He was laundering his reputation.”

If Kinahan had hoped his re-entry from the shade of boxing’s backrooms would herald a permanent place in the limelight, he had called it wrong.

Questions were asked about him at Westminster and in the Irish parliament. It was announced he would no longer negotiate fights for Tyson Fury. Then MTK said he was stepping away from boxing.

As Kinahan slipped back into the shadows, MTK maintained its growth. In recent months, it has started to sign up a host of American talent.

American sports lawyer and former boxing manager Kurt Emhoff had also noted MTK’s growth: “They have a tonne of fighters, and now they’re signing even more fighters but, where’s the money coming from to finance this?”

Barry McGuigan has the same question: “It takes millions and millions of dollars to do what MTK have done. Where is the money coming from to allow MTK to grow at such a ferocious rate?”

Like other private companies, little information is available about its finances, but in the US courts, a boxing manager has accused MTK of using Daniel Kinahan’s drug money to buy up talent.

The court filing in California alleges it is simply a front for the Kinahan drug cartel: “MTK receives funds directly or indirectly from Mr Kinahan, which are derived from racketeering activities such as drug trafficking and money laundering.”

MTK says the lawsuit will be most vigorously challenged.

The allegation of money laundering was in my mind eight weeks ago when I drove from New York to semi-rural Connecticut see a man called Bob Yalen.

The American was appointed as the new chief executive of MTK over the summer. It was he who announced that Kinahan had left boxing.

I knocked on his front door. No recording devices. No camera. I hoped this approach might encourage him to talk because he hadn’t responded to a letter we sent him in Dubai months earlier.

There followed an extraordinary conversation. I had expected him to tell me to leave. But no, Yalen, dressed in casual house garb, talked with me on his doorstep for about 15 minutes.

The biggest reveal – that Daniel Kinahan was still in boxing, and still very much associated with  MTK despite all public claims to the contrary.

Yalen said he was in regular contact with Daniel Kinahan, as business required it. He revealed that Kinahan was still advising MTK boxers but couldn’t say if that included Tyson Fury.

We asked Tyson Fury whether he’s still being advised by Daniel Kinahan – but he didn’t respond.

When I pressed Yalen about where the money was coming from to fund the expansion of the company, he said that “a big pot” had been developed over the years. I asked him if that pot came from Daniel Kinahan’s drug cartel dealings. He said, “No”.

He said that Kinahan had been the “driving force” in MTK when Yalen first joined the company in 2018 but now Kinahan had “no involvement in the business officially”.

Daniel Kinahan’s lawyers told the BBC he has “no criminal record or convictions”. They say the “wild allegations” about him being a crime boss “are false and have no evidential basis whatsoever”.

He’s an independent adviser in boxing and has “exited the business of MTK”.

MTK’s solicitors told us it has a “perfectly sustainable business” and has grown by “offering excellent managerial services….at a very competitive price.”

They said “Mr Kinahan has never owned or controlled our client company”. He’s never provided funding “nor has been a director, shareholder, officer, employee or consultant”.

They said, “It’s true Mr Kinahan does provide personal advice to a number of boxers managed by MTK Global”, as well as fighters at other companies.

I wanted to know why Yalen had chosen to join MTK at all, when allegations about Kinahan were well known. 

“I asked the fighters and they spoke well of him,” he told me. “I’ve never seen anything to concern me.”

It had been an astonishing meeting. In our terms, journalistically decisive.

We now knew that Daniel Kinahan, the alleged head of a cartel which is suspected of involvement in murder, drugs and weapons trafficking and money laundering, is still at the heart of the boxing business.

Maybe not at the top table, but you’d bet he’s in the room next door.

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