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Boxing stars, promoters sweating over ties with alleged mob boss Daniel Kinahan

·Combat columnist
·5 min read
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When WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury announced via a video on social media in 2020 that he’d signed a two-fight deal to face Anthony Joshua for the undisputed heavyweight title, he credited “Dan.”

Scores of fights over the last several years have suddenly found their way not to New York or Las Vegas or Los Angeles, traditional strongholds for the world’s biggest fights, but rather to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. That’s in large part because of the presence of Daniel Kinahan, an Irish boxing promoter and manager.

Kinahan is so deeply involved in boxing that earlier this year a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America put his name forward as a nominee for 2021 Manager of the Year.

Kinahan didn’t win it, but he doesn’t have much time to worry about that now.

On Tuesday at a news conference in Dublin, Ireland, attended by senior U.S. officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Treasury, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, the government announced a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Kinahan; his father, Christopher V. Kinahan Sr.; and his brother, Christopher V. Kinahan Jr. The reward is $5 million for each man.

Claire Cronin, the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, said fighting organized crime was a top priority for President Joe Biden. In a news release issued by the Treasury Department, the Kinahans were referred to as the “Kinahan Organized Crime Group.”

“The Kinahan Organized Crime Group smuggles deadly narcotics, including cocaine, to Europe, and is a threat to the entire licit economy through its role in international money laundering,” Brian E. Nelson, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the news release.

Daniel Kinahan has had a long relationship with many top figures in boxing. Hoopoe Sports was mentioned in the release and manages fighters, including Michael Conlan and Billy Joe Saunders.

Kinahan’s reach extends throughout the boxing world and though boxing wasn’t discussed in the news conference on Tuesday, the investigation is ongoing.

No boxing promoter is accused of wrongdoing, but given Kinahan’s history, it creates a dubious association, at best. There’s never been a barrier to entry in boxing, and boxing in the U.S. has had a long and not-so-glorious history with organized crime figures. Mobsters Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo were the most powerful figures in boxing in the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Tyson Fury looks on during the Tyson Fury v Dilian Whyte press conference at Wembley Stadium on March 01, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)
In 2020, Tyson Fury thanked Daniel Kinahan for helping to put together a two-fight deal against Anthony Joshua. (Photo by James Chance/Getty Images)

Kinahan had a relationship with the boxing management company MTK Global, and one fight manager insists in a lawsuit he still does, though Kinahan denies it. Boxing manager Moses Heredia of California sued MTK and Kinahan in 2020, alleging they stole boxer JoJo Diaz from him.

In Heredia’s suit, he alleges that Kinahan, who is based in Dubai, is overseeing MTK’s activities. Heredia’s suit also alleged that Kinahan helped co-found MTK in order to “launder illicit proceeds from drug trafficking through a seemingly lawful business.”

In a sworn statement filed in court on March 14, 2022, Kinahan said, “I do not work for and am not employed by MTK Global Sports Management, LLC, MTK Global USA, LLC [or the other defendants in the lawsuit,] Golden Boy Productions, Inc., Golden Boy Promotions, Inc., … ”

Among the notable boxers managed by MTK Global are Fury, WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, undisputed super lightweight champion Josh Taylor, super lightweight contender Jack Catterall, WBO women’s middleweight champion Savannah Marshall, Liam Smith and Diaz.

Many promoters have had ties or deeper relationships with Kinahan. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum called Kinahan “honorable” in a 2020 story in the Irish Sun, though Top Rank severed its relationship with him shortly thereafter.

A new boxing promotion, Probellum, has denied being associated with Kinahan despite a tweet from Rai Taimoor Khan Bhatti, the provincial minister for sports and youth affair in Punjab, Pakistan.

On March 20, he wrote on Twitter, “Met @probellum on aligning vision on boxing for Punjab & how to make this sport bigger for our youth. Looking forward to hosting Daniel in Lahore to discuss Pakistan’s first International fight with foreign world class boxers InshAllah. Will share more info in the upcoming weeks.”

He included several photos with the tweet, one of which was him with Kinahan.

Kinahan’s alleged crimes have nothing so far to do with boxing, but he’s done millions of dollars worth of deals with promoters in the sport. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control announced sanctions on the Kinahans.

“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated individuals or entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC,” the release noted.

So there could be tough times ahead for many of the biggest names in boxing.

Their assets may be scrutinized like never before. This is a story that won’t go away soon.

And that’s not good news for those who did and particularly those who continue to do business with Kinahan.

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