The present-day reinvention of Daniel Kinahan is threatening to come at the expense of the rebranding of MTK Global.
A deliberate push has come in recent times to legitimize the presence of Ireland’s Kinahan—a co-founding member of MGM (Macklin’s Gym Marbella) along with former middleweight contender Matthew Macklin, which now runs as MTK Global under new management—as a respectable boxing figure. The campaign is far removed from that of which led to his distancing himself from MTK when it was bought out in 2017 from the company’s other co-founder, former middleweight contender Matthew Macklin.
As much was expressed by the current head of the company, which manages roughly 200 boxers in present day including reigning lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs).
“Everyone knows, legally and legitimately, I purchased the business from Matthew Macklin in 2017,” Sandra Vaughan, CEO of MTK Global explained in a recent interview with IFL TV–for which the management company has long served as its leading sponsor. “There are no ties to Daniel Kinahan, there was no contract or financial transaction, absolutely nothing. He hasn't got anything to do with MTK Global. We manage fighters, that's our role.
“A fighter has a team, not just a manager, a team. A trainer, a cutman, a nutritionist, an S&C coach, and 99% of the time they will have an advisor. That can be Daniel, that can be a family member, it could be a cousin or a father. There is always somebody around them that is giving them advice. We don't employ any of these people, they have got no official connection to MTK Global. They are part of that fighter's team, just like we're a member of that team. These are independent professional athletes and will decide themselves who they want to speak to, who they want to train with, and who they want to have with them supporting the team.”
The sale came more than a year after the infamous February 2016 shooting at the weigh-in for a show to have been headlined by Irish lightweight Jamie Kavanagh at the Regency Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. An attack by armed Irish gangsters, including at least two who posed as Gardai—Ireland’s police service—infiltrated the pre-fight weigh-in, with the belief of Kinahan being the target of an assassination attempt.
Three people were shot, including the murder of David Byrne whose brother Liam was named by Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau as “a trusted lieutenant of… the Kinahan Organized Crime group” through its Byrne Organized Crime subsidiary. The attempted hit on Kinahan was reported to be in retaliation for the September 2015 murder of Gary Hutch, the nephew of ruthless gangster Gerry Hutch. The murder of Gary Hutch—which took place in Miraflores, Spain—is considered the starting point in the longstanding feud between the Kinahan and Hutch crime families spanning Ireland and Spain which has resulted in 20 deaths and roughly 60 arrests.
Two shows scheduled for that weekend—both of which were presented by boxers represented by Kinahan’s MGM company—were canceled. The horrific incident itself has largely contributed to the demise of boxing in the Republic of Ireland.
At the time of the company sale, there existed the understanding that Kinahan—who is now based in Dubai, the luxurious United Arab Emirates locale which also houses MTK Global headquarters—would distance himself from the company altogether under its new management, due to public perception of his life outside of boxing. Kinahan was named in the Irish High Court in 2018 as having a controlling and managing role in the Kinahan Organized Crime gang, which was previously led by his father, convicted Irish drug dealer Christy ‘Dapper Don’ Kinahan.
While such claims were never mentioned by current brass, the light which had been cast upon Kinahan was a motivating factor in complete transfer of ownership and management. The issue was addressed during a 2019 episode of The Boxing Esq. Podcast, hosted by attorney and prominent boxing figure Kurt Emhoff.
“No, he's agreed to step aside and he perfectly understood what the issues were,” Bob Yalen, president of MTK Global insisted when directly asked about Kinahan’s continued involvement. “In fairness to Daniel, I've met very few people who have a fighter's best interest at heart, more of a best interest of heart than Daniel. He may himself admit did he always go about it the right way, maybe not, but never anything malicious.
“Daniel—anytime I've spoken to him in the past—is always 'What's best for the fighter?' What can be done for the fighter?' So, I can't fault him for that.”
The interview came when MTK was more than a year into rebranding its own image. It wasn’t an easy transition, in fact one which came with a near-year long stretch where the company announced a boycott of all media outlets in the Republic of Ireland beginning in February 2018 due to what was described by Macklin as “widespread media propaganda. The ban was lifted last January, an olive branch extended by Yalen who noted that “Irish boxing will always remain close to the heart of MTK. It would be nice to be free to operate there as we do in every other country in the world and my hope is that the Irish press will support our efforts to do so.”
MTK Global represents roughly 30 Irish boxers, including former two-division champion Carl Frampton, two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Michael Conlan and former 130-pound title challenger Jono Carroll. Frampton and Conlan both hail from Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland which was never part of the ban and which has housed many MTK-run events in recent years.
As for company image restoration, a large number of legitimate and respectable boxing-savvy personnel were brought in to run the day-to-day operations. None are involved in any criminal activity, which was and is also the case for Macklin who remains identified as an adviser to the company.
That dynamic hasn’t changed, although it’s clear that laying low is no longer of interest to Kinahan—for whom several MTK boxers have come forward in pledging their allegiance. Nor is living with years of what he deems negative press, as there has come a concentrated effort to not only clean up his image but rewrite history.
A short documentary has recently made the rounds, reliving the aforementioned Regency Hotel shooting. The 15-minute film was posted on the YouTube channel of Scarcity Studios, which runs the disclaimer of it serving as an independent video and not having any involvement in its production, filming or projected viewpoints. The anonymously submitted video theorizes that the bloody incident wasn’t the result of a gangland hit but rather a political conspiracy motivated to drive the results of an upcoming election later that spring.
It is believed both by Gardai and Irish media members that the film is just the latest step in disassociating Kinahan from previous reportings of anything other than that of a respected boxing influence.
“It’s part of the reinvention of Daniel Kinahan,” Paul Reynolds, award-winning veteran crime correspondent for Ireland’s RTE explained during an interview on the company’s Claire Byrne Live primetime show on Monday. “We’ve seen this going on for the past year, honestly.”
The film—which has generated more than 82,000 views since posting online on Sunday—appeared after two well-publicized interviews appeared on IFL TV. One was with Vaughan, whose segment came in response to previous comments made on IFL TV by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, whose Top Rank company co-promotes Fury and represents several fighters managed by MTK.
“First you have to understand our situation with Top Rank,” explained Arum. “We have been working all year, the past year with MTK. Because of our connection with MTK, we’ve been able to get a whole host of events from MTK and televise them in the United States on ESPN+, which has more than 8 million subscribers. That’s been a big success. Our relationship with MTK has been tremendous, particularly with Dan who was the original founder of MTK and now is still an adviser to them.
“He is our adviser, in effect, regarding the [Middle] East. He’s live in the [Middle] East and has very, very good connections. We, early on, ceded to Dan the authority to explore opportunities in the [Middle] East on behalf of Top Rank. In talking to Frank (Warren, a longtime promoter based in the United Kingdom), we told Frank what our preference was and Frank agreed to go along. His company, Queensberry is the co-promoter of Tyson Fury.”
Kinahan has been named as the central figure in presenting an epic heavyweight championship fight between Fury and the unbeaten Brit’s countryman, unified titlist Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21KOs). Plans call for such a fight—which realistically cannot take place until 2021 at the earliest—to be staged in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula.
The involvement of Kinahan comes as an intermediary, it is deemed by Arum, between Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, managing director of UK-based Matchroom Boxing and Joshua’s promoter. The two leading promoters in England rarely do business together and—according to Hearn—whose paths have only crossed once before, in a non-boxing setting.
“I think Dan’s influence (in boxing) is tremendous, because people trust him,” insists Arum. “Because he maintains good relationships with all the promoters—including Top Rank—it’s a lot easier for promoters to go along with him rather than maybe do it themselves. He really serves as a fair type of buffer with promoters who are maybe at odds with each other like Frank and Eddie (laughs).
“Sometimes promoters get full of themselves and carry out feuds against the other guy without looking at the bigger picture. Having a guy like Dan involved in that nonsense gets either diminished or cut out entirely.”
Of course, the extent of Kinahan’s involvement in MTK—as expressed by Arum and others—prompted the company to attempt to set the record straight.
"Daniel is an advisor for Bob Arum. That's in an official capacity, and the reason we managed to get dates for ESPN, was because Daniel gave us the introduction to Top Rank,” explains Vaughan of a pact between MTK and ESPN+ which was created in 2019. “He wants MTK to do well, he was the founder of MTK Global.
“He's stepped away and is his own person. Give us some credit, we work very hard to get some sort of recognition, but a recommendation coming from Daniel to boxing royalty like Bob Arum was an amazing platform for us, and that's come from a recommendation from Daniel, but there is no connection.”
The interview was transcribed and distributed via press release through MTK Global’s press office, with the disclaimer that “MTK Global will be making no further comment at this time.” That is well within the company’s right to no longer address the subject.
It doesn’t, however, grant the media the right to ignore it.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox