It will be two years next week since Daniel Kinahan’s plan to become boxing’s Mr Big blew up in his face.
In May 2020, KHK Sports – a company owned by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a son of the king of Bahrain – announced the hiring of Kinahan as a special boxing adviser.
This followed on from Kinahan coming out of the shadows, having laid low in Dubai for quite some time.
He was photographed with various prominent boxing figures and a boxing conference was announced for Bahrain, with some of the biggest names in the sport paying tribute to Kinahan on the press release.
Among those to sing Kinahan’s praises were Roy Jones Jr, Bob Arum, Frank Warren, Shelly Finkel, Tunde Ajayi, Kalle Sauerland, Badou Jack and Johnny Nelson.
Three figures from Irish boxing were quoted too – Carl Frampton, Michael Conlan and Pete Taylor. Interestingly, none of them mentioned Kinahan…
This was a period where there was both a rap song and a documentary alleging that a combination of the Gardai, Fine Gael and the media tried to murder Kinahan at the Regency Hotel in Dublin in February, 2016.
Kinahan was announced as an advisor to MTK Global – a company that had been at pains since 2017 to stress that all ties with the Dubliner had been cut.
One UK newspaper published a piece about Tyson Fury at the time which mentioned Kinahan seven times.
Kinahan couldn’t have paid for better PR. In the piece, he was described as ”a genius” and as a man who treats fighters like he would his own children.
It was hard not to think that a PR war was underway, one that was designed to whitewash Kinahan’s reputation so that he could get what he wanted- a perch at the top of global boxing.
But everything changed when Fury posted a video clip on Instagram on June 9, 2020.
In that clip, he – prematurely – announced that a deal had been done to fight Anthony Joshua.
It would be one of the most lucrative fights of all time and Fury made it clear that it would happen due to one man.
“Thanks to Dan!,” he bellowed. Dan is Daniel Kinahan.
This was three years after Kinahan was identified in the High Court in Dublin as a senior figure in organised crime on a global scale.
The Criminal Assets Bureau said he “controlled and managed” the operations of the Kinahan Organised Crime Group, an organisation which smuggles drugs and guns into Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe and “has associations that facilitate international criminal activity in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America”.
Fury’s announcement meant there was some focus on Kinahan in the sports media for a while.
Some felt the heat, and KHK Sports announced that they were cutting ties with him. The planned boxing conference in Bahrain was cancelled too.
The furore at the time meant that many sat up and took notice of Kinahan and his involvement in boxing for the first time.
Among those were Darragh MacIntyre and Stephen Dempster, who collaborated on a six month investigation for BBC’s Panorama.
The programme was aired in February, 2021, and MacIntyre approached many within boxing to take part in it.
Matt Christie, editor of Boxing News, was one of the few to agree to do so.
“For professional reasons, I had to think long and hard about whether I was going to do it. I could potentially be cutting ties with some of the biggest names in the sport, and I just felt that it was the right thing to do,” he said.
“Boxing has had some shady characters going on all through its history but, ultimately, we live in a different world, a completely different world.
“Back then, a shady character could operate in the shade. The world is a smaller place now with rolling news and social media.
“So to say that this always happened so we should turn a blind eye…I don’t agree with that one little bit.”
The rise of Kinahan within boxing was very much helped by light-touch regulation of the sport.
There is no overarching international governing body for professional boxing. Kinahan could get involved at a high level because of his money – the loopholes are there to allow it.
“The sport has got a massive problem in terms of governance. Take America, for example, every state does its own thing,” said Christie.
“The majority of countries around the world have got their own governing bodies with different regulations, different licensing procedures and so on.
“That is a huge problem in the sport of boxing. And I think it’s certainly contributed to the situation where Kinahan has become one the most influential advisors in the sport.
“It’s always been this way, it’s the way boxing has evolved but it’s not like there’s an easy solution.”
Even though Kinahan – and boxing – tried to ride out the storm after the Panorama investigation, it always felt as if his days in the sport were numbered.
That is certainly the case now that US sanctions have bit, and bit hard.
Many of Kinahan’s most vocals cheerleaders have done a serious amount of backtracking in recent weeks.
This writer, and producer Ciaran Bradley, have collaborated on a four part podcast series on Daniel Kinahan’s involvement in the fight game – Shadow Boxing.
The first episode goes live today, and interviewees from Ireland, the UK, the USA and Germany explain how boxing got in such a mess, and how Kinahan was allowed to get such a tight grip on the sport.
It’s the story of how boxing fell under the spell of a man named in the Irish courts as heading up one of Europe’s largest criminal gangs.
This man is wanted in the United States for ‘[sourcing] large quantities of cocaine from South America’ for sale in Europe. He has also been central to some of the most important sports deals of the past decade.
This man is Daniel Kinahan.
Boxing is Ireland’s most successful international sport, but it has been hollowed out by gangland murder and intrigue.
One of the biggest sports stories of all was reported – but it was reported more on the front pages than the back.
Kinahan’s attempted takeover of a global sport raises all sorts of questions. Finding answers hasn’t been easy.
NOTE: Search ‘Shadow Boxing’ on Spotify, Podchaser, Podcast Addict, Spreaker and Apple Podcasts to listen.
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