Promoters and boxers are disavowing Daniel Kinahan, who the Treasury Department said is the leader of a murderous drug cartel.
One week after the United States government levied sanctions on Daniel Kinahan, the reputed head of an Irish drug cartel, recriminations are mounting for the world of boxing, with many fighters, promoters and managers racing to distance themselves from Kinahan.
On Wednesday, MTK Global, an English management company representing some of the world’s biggest boxers, announced that it was ceasing operations because others in the sport were refusing to deal with the company, which Kinahan founded in 2012.
MTK Global has repeatedly said that it ended all association with Kinahan in 2017. It was not one of the businesses sanctioned by the Treasury Department last week.
“Since leading promoters have now informed us that they will be severing all ties with MTK and will no longer work with our fighters, we have taken the difficult decision to cease operations at the end of this month,” the company said in a statement. MTK Global represented champion fighters like Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders.
The company added that it had faced “unprecedented levels of unfair scrutiny and criticism” of its connections to Kinahan. The shutdown comes a day after the company’s chief executive, Bob Yalen, resigned, citing the “intense” pressure of the last few weeks.
The Treasury Department announced financial sanctions against Kinahan, and a number of related people and businesses, last week. A top Treasury official said in a statement that “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.”
The Treasury Department called the Kinahan cartel a “murderous organization” linked to homicides across Europe, and compared it to the Camorra in Italy, the Yakuza in Japan and Los Zetas in Mexico. Partnering with law enforcement agencies in Ireland and across Europe, the department offered $5 million bounties for information leading to the arrests of Kinahan, his father and his brother.
For the past decade, even as law enforcement officials say he was operating a sophisticated drug cartel, Kinahan was integrating himself into the combat sports scene. He formally represented and informally advised numerous athletes, and he was involved in negotiations with other promoters and media companies for some of the biggest boxing fights.
Kinahan is most closely associated with Fury, the heavyweight champion managed by MTK Global. Fury has been photographed with and spoken admiringly about Kinahan on numerous occasions.
According to Bob Arum, the founder of United States-based boxing promoter Top Rank, Top Rank paid Kinahan over $4 million in consulting fees for four Fury fights it promoted between 2019 and 2021, showcasing Kinahan’s involvement in the highest levels of boxing.
Fury is fighting against Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday in a highly anticipated heavyweight bout. But the run-up to the fight has been overshadowed by questions about Fury’s relationship with Kinahan, questions he has repeatedly dodged.
“I’m not here to talk politics, war or religion from you, trying to probe for me to say something,” Fury told an interviewer from Sky News on Tuesday. “I’m not interested in others’ concerns. Don’t care, none of my business. I’m a boxing man and I’ve got a fight to think about, enough said.”
He added: “Thank you very much and I won’t be doing any more interviews with Sky.”
Mounir Lazzez, a mixed martial arts fighter represented by MTK Global, gave an unsolicited shout out to Kinahan after winning a fight last weekend. Asked about it after, Lazzez called Kinahan “a friend and adviser,” before professing to be unaware of the sanctions against Kinahan.
Other figures in combat sports have sought to distance themselves from Kinahan.
Michael Conlan, an Irish featherweight, was previously managed by MTK Global and was listed as a client on the website of Hoopoe Sports, a Dubai-based company that was included in the sanctions. But Conlan said in a statement that he has been represented by his brother, Jamie, for the past year, and had never heard of Hoopoe.
Mauricio Sulaimán, the head of the World Boxing Council sanctioning organization, was photographed with Kinahan in Dubai earlier this year. But after the sanctions were levied, Sulaimán said that “at no time” did he have any relationship with Kinahan and called his meeting with him an “innocent mistake, due to absolute ignorance of the situation.”
Arum said Top Rank would not do any business with Kinahan in the future. Eddie Hearn, the chairman of the boxing promoter Matchroom Sport, also said his company would follow all regulations and have nothing to do with Kinahan. Probellum, a promoter that has signed a number of MTK fighters and was linked to Kinahan by a Pakistani politician, denied those links and also said it would not deal with Kinahan.