Buzz and scrutiny build regarding Daniel Kinahan and MTK Global
In the last few years, MTK Global has emerged as a major league power player in the pro boxing sphere, but that outfit had been a bit under radar within the United States.
MTK has received a buzz blast in the last couple months, though, as heavyweight lead dog Tyson Fury has been publicly singing the praises of the company.
Fury, the charismatic and controversial talent signed to Top Rank, shouted out the lead man for MTK, Daniel Kinahan, on June 10, for being a superlative agent on his behalf.
Kinahan, “The Gypsy King” said, deserves massive kudos for getting all parties together and helping form a two-fight deal, in principle, for Fury to meet Anthony Joshua, the Brit belt collector.
The name Daniel Kinahan didn’t resonate that heavily within fight game circles, casuals wouldn’t likely have been struck by the name drop. But within Irish media, Kinahan has been a lightning rod, for a goodly spell.
WEIGH-IN SHOOTOUT WAS NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL IN BOXING
The name trended harder, though, after the Feb. 5, 2016, a weigh in was held for a European lightweight title crack between Dubliner Jamie Kavanagh and Antonio João Bento, at the Regency Hotel in Whitehall, Dublin.
Gunmen carrying high powered weaponry entered and opened fire. One man was killed and within Dublin and vicinity it was not an open secret the violent outburst had to do with a feud between locals, the Kinahans, and the Hutches.
Boxing is “the theater of the unexpected,” but this weigh-in slay scene, this wasn’t seen as business as usual. The US fight media, though, didn’t swarm the story. There are reasons for that. For starters, plenty of negative and sensational goings on within America kept citizens occupied. The man elected President in November 2016, Donald Trump, had specialized in stirring the pot, taking aim at rivals in all stations, from the Democrat’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, across all the boards.
But the Prime Minister of Ireland at the time, Enda Kenney, said the weigh-in shooting appeared to involved ‘rival criminal gangs in the Dublin area,’ so it became apparent if a press person looked into it that, proper investigation would be called for to handle the story properly.
In America, print media in particular has fallen victim to consolidation and attrition, with a shift to online news consumption resulting in a drop in ad revenue. Papers have been shuttering for two decades now, journos were being laid off, coverage suffered, in breadth, depth, all of it.
So…the man slain at the Regency, David Byrne, was described in papers as an associate of Daniel Kinahan. It was speculated that Daniel Kinahan was the intended target at the hotel, and that the violent frenzy came about as a payback for the Sept. 24, 2015 killing in Spain of Gary Hutch, nephew to Gerry Hutch. Gerry Hutch is described in 2017 book “The Cartel” by Stephen Breen and Owen Conlon as ‘an established armed robber’ who has spent multiple stints in lockups for transgressions.
Kavanagh, the boxer favored to win atop the “Clash of the Clans” card at the National Stadium in the south of the city, hails from Dublin. An Associated Press story posted right after the weigh-in shooting said Jamie’s father and uncle had ties to dark-sided commerce conducted by Daniel Kinahan’s father Christy Kinahan. A Feb. 7, 2016 “Irish Times” piece called Christy an illicit drugs wholesaler, who was handed a six year stint (starting in the late 80s) for possession of narcotics, and the piece said he resided now in Spain.
People in the know, mainly Irish folk used to news coverage of local gangland hubbub, were now better understanding the inter-connectedness between the local boxing world, and people who made their livings within even darker trades.
On Aug. 3, 2014 fighter Jamie Moore, a Dubliner, got shot five times, and almost bled to death in Marbella, Spain. Moore went to the location to train for an upcoming fight. According to a report in the UK “Mirror,” Jamie Moore was “visiting the home of friend Daniel Kinahan (see below, pictured in the Irish Times), the son of a suspected Irish crime boss Christy Kinahan, who is also linked to Mr (Gary) Hutch…But it is thought the intended recipient of the hit was Irish gangster Gary Hutch, age 34.”
Another hit, coming September 24, 2015, on Hutch “succeeded.” Gary Hutch was shot dead beside a swimming pool in Malaga, Spain. Multiple explanations for why Hutch was killed are available, but parsing out what is closest to the truth is a task best left for someone writing a book on the matter. Was Gary Hutch an informant? Was he not the ‘intended recipient’ in the shooting that left boxer Moore near death, and in fact was Kinahan the actual target?
Perhaps the best person to answer is one James Quinn, who is serving a 22 year sentence for the killing of Gary Hutch. He told his jury in a Malaga court that it wasn’t him: “The morning of September 24 I was in bed with a hangover and a prostitute.” The jury disregarded the excuse.
The reader by this point may better understand why American media hasn’t been all in or even half in on the makeup of MTK Global. Parsing out what is pertinent and what is not pertinent is ideally done by going back in time, to the 90s, 80s, even earlier, trying to trace dealings and ties and alliances and breakups. Summing it all up too tidily is a fools errand, arguably; best to try even harder to boil down events to as a terse a timeline as possible.
MTK STARTED OUT AS MGM (NOT THAT MGM)
MTK stands for “Mack the Knife Global.” The “Mack the Knife” reference stems from the nickname of the founder, Matthew Macklin from Birmingham, England, the ex pugilist who formed the entity in 2013. Macklin, a solid athlete with Irish roots who campaigned as a middle weight and elevated the ranks to the point he got a title shot against Gennady Golovkin, is known as an amiable and articulate sort.
He’s explained how he came plant the seeds for MTK. Macklin searched for a nicer climate to train in, other than in England, and settled in Marbella, Spain. Later in his career, he wanted to buy a gym there, which he did. Thus was born “Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM).”
Marbella, and Manchester, England, and Glasgow, Macklin’s gym empire grew beefier. But the Las Vegas behemoth MGM noticed this new “MGM” growing a rep, as Macklin the manager grew his own stable of fighters. The hospitality and entertainment company requested that it be made clear that Macklin’s MGM wasn’t affiliated with the casino and gaming corp. In January of 2017, the “boxing” MGM became “MTK (Mack the Knife) Global, and Macklin spread the word about the switch.
He termed Daniel Kinahan a “best friend” and said that Kinahan “took a backwards step” after the shoot em up at the Regency. Meaning, no, Kinahan wouldn’t be heavily involved in MTK.
Macklin went into other endeavors, then, latching on with Sky as analyst, and MTK’s footprint grew. The fighter who hung up the mitts after a win over Brian Rose on April 9, 2016, sold out, it was said, to one Sandra McClumpha in October 2017, but remained involved, on their board.
(NOTE: I messaged Macklin, asking if he’d like to place his voice more prominently in this story, and will paste his response, if and when he chooses to communicate.)
Vaughan’s union with a Kevin Kelly, mentioned in a 2012 Scottish “Daily Record” for being kidnapped and beaten in Marbella, came to an end. And she then re-married, to boxing lifer Danny Vaughan in 2012, and was known in the UK as a self tanning queen, who built up the “Fake Bake” brand in the early 2000s.
Some brows furrowed, how and why the self tanning entrepreneur now headed up a boxing management company. But, boxing is used to seeing strange bedfellows hook up, so what chatter there was mostly stayed contained in the UK.
Drama seethed in Ireland, especially, as popular and congenial types like Mick Conlan and Carl Frampton aligned with the MTK brand.
Irish fight fans didn’t appreciate a decision announced in February of 2018, for sure. MTK said they wouldn’t host cards in Ireland. Vaughan publicly stated a reiteration, also, that MTK had cut ties with Kinahan.
Outside Ireland and the UK, there wasn’t a mass movement to ascertain if any of this drama impacted matters like, say, Olympic ace and Bray, Ireland native Katie Taylor (not an MTK athlete) not doing a single fight in Ireland after turning pro in 2016.
MTK VERSUS THE PRESS IS A LONG-STANDING RIVALRY
Drama played out between MTK and Irish media. An “Independent” columnist likened Kinahan to Pablo Escobar and MTK boxers sometimes got involved in the social media side of the hard sparring. A hashtag call for “FairNews” made the rounds, in March of 2018, trying to make the point that Kinahan wasn’t getting a fair shake, and MTK ran a fully respectable enterprise.
And plenty of A grade names within the sport concurred. Promoter Frank Warren in July 2018 termed Daniel Kinahan an “honourable man.” Also, Warren said, “My office deals with MTK as does every boxing promoter in the world. I have no knowledge of his business dealings.”
Kinahan, supposedly residing in Dubai since the summer of 2016, now and again received thumbs up from boxing bigs, like Hall of Fame deal-maker Bob Arum, who in May 2020 gave a rave review to Kinahan.
Said Arum, who after Harvard Law worked in the Robert F Kennedy Department of Justice, “Our relationship with MTK has been tremendous and particularly with Dan who was the original founder of MTK. And now is still an advisor to them and is in effect our advisor regarding the Mid East. He’s living in the Mid East and he has very good connections. And so we early on ceded to Dan the authority to explore opportunities in the Mid East on behalf of Top Rank…Everybody trusts Kinahan with handling that situation — whether it’s Eddie Hearn, or Frank Warren or myself. So Dan is like the captain when it comes to the practicalities of doing a fight in the Mid East.”
But no, Arum didn’t play the part of the unaware rube. Arum said to the Irish Sun: “I’m not naive. I was a federal prosecutor myself. I’m saying I can disregard all of that stuff. It doesn’t affect me. It hasn’t affected me. When it does, I’ll have to deal with it.”
Same as when Hearn had to field questions about Saudi Arabia’s civil and human rights history, and their kingdom’s treatment of women, and homosexuals, when he helped bring the December 2019 Andy Ruiz v Anthony Joshua to the largest economic power in the Mid East, in exchange for a bloated check.
But while Arum made the point that boxing attracts a variety of characters and he’s not inclined to give everyone he deals with a lie detector test, a trend started to form, in pushback on Kinahan.
An MTK deal to do business with Bahrain, a sovereign Persian Gulf state got trashed. On May 14 a release went out which termed Kinahan an “International boxing power broker,” and informed that he had been appointed as “special advisor to KHK Sports in Bahrain.” On June 4th, the hype train for that relationship chugged ahead. A release went out touting a forthcoming conference to give more details on the MTK-KHK marriage. Luminaries like Lennox Lewis, Shelly Finkel, Amir Khan and Roy Jones showed their approval: “I’ve spent a lot of time with my friend Daniel Kinahan and what I love about Daniel is that he is more concerned about the boxers than he is about anything else,” said Jones, the Hall of Famer who holds citizenship rights in Russia and the US. “It’s very hard to find people in the business that think like this. Most people in the sport look at boxers like race dogs or race horses but not Daniel, he treats you like a boxer or as a friend, and sometimes even as his own kid so I think he’s a fantastic addition to the team at KHK Sports.”
The marriage, though, ended prematurely. “KHK Sports confirms it has discontinued its engagement with Daniel Kinahan and he is no longer an advisor to KHK Sports,” read a portion of a June 16 release.
The releases, they’ve been rolling out frequently. A May 15 MTK press release from Vaughan was intended to quell some of the chatter about MTK and Kinahan’s role in the management company.
“Everyone knows, legally and legitimately, I purchased the business from Matthew Macklin in 2017,” the statement began, getting off on a wrong foot, because outside looking in, nobody knows the circumstances of the transfer of the business. She continued: “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 reason we got Tyson Fury was because he was recommended to us through Daniel, which I’m totally grateful for. It happens all the time and I hope it continues to happen. As long as we fulfill what Daniel says about us being a great management company and keep doing the best for the fighters as much as we can, hopefully we’ll continue to get recommendations from Daniel. 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. 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.”
One of the most staunch defenders of Kinahan is 168 pounder BJ Saunders. The 29-0 fighter, born in England, regularly puts both feet in mouth, with his offensive outbursts. Two months ago, he made light of domestic violence, posting a video showing how to most effectively neutralize a spouse or galpal who annoyed you during the coronavirus lockdown period.
On June 27 BJ came to the defense of the honor of Kinahan, on the IFL platform, a boxing news source which is sponsored by MTK.
“Let’s say anybody, I don’t know if it’s like a police officer, if anything happens, it’s Daniel Kinahan. Leave the man alone. He’s fucking getting on with business,” Saunders stated to IFL. “A lot of people are jealous of success. He’s good at his job. He’s very fucking good at his job. I think he’s too big for Ireland. I think for the amount of business of what he’s doing and everything else, Ireland should really appreciate him for that small country they got and say ‘look what we got’… You get all these negative stories about all the other rubbish, it’s always headlining all this cartel shit and all this and that. I’ve known him all my life. I’ve never heard him talk about any violence. And I’m the straightest talker in the world. I think someone’s prick, I saw they’re a prick. He’s very, very good man and an extremely good businessman. And without him, there would be a lot a lot a lot of fighters that’d be in big trouble….Daniel is walking away from boxing, which is a big, big loss in my eyes. I don’t know if I want to be a part of it at this level anymore moving forward.”
That impassioned stance came three days after the 88 year old Arum pivoted, and announced that Kinahan now will NOT be involved in hashing out a deal to help make a Fury vs Joshua bout, or Fury versus anyone.
“Over the weekend I’ve had a lot of conversations with Tyson Fury and what we both decided is that myself, Top Rank and Fury will do all negotiations for fights in the future,” Arum told Gareth Davies of The Daily Telegraph on June 24. “Whether it’s for Joshua or Wilder or anybody else. We’ve informed Eddie Hearn about that. He knows where to go for the negotiations. Tyson and I have had long negotiations about it. We’ve talked with Dan, who Tyson and I both love and admire and respect, and he understands that it’s best the negotiations on Tyson’s side be handled that way. Both Tyson and I have each discussed this with Dan and he is amenable and satisfied and wished us luck. He only wants the best for Tyson Fury.”
Davies didn’t hold back in painting a full picture of Daniel Kinahan. “Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau told its High Court in 2018 that Kinahan had “managed and controlled” the drug-trafficking operations of the Kinahan organised crime group,” wrote Davies.”The following year, Europol identified the cartel as one of the main cocaine importers in Europe and as far away as Australia. And, just last month, Dublin’s Special Criminal Court accepted evidence the group was involved in serious offending, including “execution-type murders”, as well as trafficking of drugs and firearms. It has also been reported that Kinahan has been banned from entering the United States.”
The deeper examination of MTK, and of Daniel Kinahan’s place within the sport, keeps surging, and the momentum isn’t ceasing. On Monday, we got word that Vaughan is “stepping down” as CEO and Bob Yalen, ex of ABC, NBC Sports and ESPN’s management side, before a stint at Mohegan Sun Casino, then the World Boxing Council, will be the MTK CEO.
“I feel both humbled and incredibly motivated by this opportunity,” said Yalen, in a release. “It has been an honour to be a part of the growth of MTK since 2018 and I now look forward to driving the business to even greater heights as CEO. Sandra Vaughan has done a phenomenal job over the past three years and I now intend to build on her successes.”
(NOTE: I sent a note to MTK, offering Yalen space to speak more on the recent goings-on at MTK, and also furnished an invite for Daniel Kinahan to weigh in, and speak his mind. Responses will be inserted if and when furnished.)
Yalen told Mike Coppinger of The Athletic on Monday that, essentially, negative characterizations of Kinahan are ‘fake news. “No court has ever found this man guilty of anything,” Yalen said. “The man has never been charged or convicted of a crime. The only basis for these allegations is the hearsay testimony of biased parties.”
All this press could result in a harder push by authorities within Ireland and beyond to prove that it isn’t merely idle chatter from partisan sources which have it so Kinahan is cast in a certain light.
The timing for that to happen may or may not be ideal for Daniel Kinahan.
Within America, a reckoning is playing out after the on-video lynching of George Floyd served to catalyze both discussion and some progress in a re-conception of “law and order” in America.
Coronavirus’ slow dance of death in America is forcing some people formerly in the dark about systemic inequities to ponder more than before about who and what, exactly, some people in power are serving.
Globally, this is a time of conflict, and plenty of disorder–and very often it is during these periods that bigger-picture matters get sorted out. Chaos swirls everywhere, and eventually, chaos settles into order. Perhaps, sooner rather than later, that dictum could apply to MTK and Daniel Kinahan. He has his defenders and enthusiastic backers and also no shortage of persons willing to publicly designate him in starkly negative terms–eventually, usually, our systems’ mechanisms play out so the truth is determined.