Boxing board powerless over Daniel Kinahan's advising role in sport

Donald McRae
·4-min read

Robert Smith, the general secretary for the British Boxing Board of Control, has conceded there is nothing the governing body can do to prevent the continued involvement of Daniel Kinahan in the sport.

It is alleged Kinahan is the head of an organised crime cartel and Smith spoke of his disappointment at the damage done to boxing’s reputation following the BBC’s investigation. On Monday’s Panorama programme it was confirmed by lawyers acting for the management company MTK Global that Kinahan is still advising fighters.

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“It was disappointing for the sport, obviously,” Smith said, “but the gentleman is not licensed by the British Boxing Board in any capacity. We don’t license MTK as a promoter. We license individuals so the named promoter is Lee Eaton [who works for MTK] and he is the only person we deal with.”

Smith said a loophole in the board’s regulations means the governing body is powerless when it comes to regulating “advisers”. Promoters, managers, trainers and fighters all need a professional boxing licence – but advisers, of whom Kinahan is the most notorious, are not answerable to the board.

Kinahan has been named in the Irish courts as the head of the Kinahan organised crime group – described by the BBC as “one of Europe’s most brutal drug cartels”. He has still been lauded by many fighters, including Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders, who are attached to MTK Global, a powerful management company that now represents around 250 fighters in Britain, Ireland, Europe and America.

In 2012, Kinahan helped set up MGM, a boxing management company, which then changed its name to MTK after a sustained spell of bad publicity. Kinahan apparently cut ties with MTK in 2017. Yet it is no secret to anyone in boxing that he has played a prominent role in the sport in recent years.

Smith paused when asked if it is not a source of shame for everyone in boxing that the matter has not been addressed properly in Britain. “I am not going to argue with you. However, wrongly or rightly, as far as I am aware, he has not been convicted of any offence. That makes things very difficult and we have to let the authorities take the upper hand.

“Obviously there are things we are not happy about. Things were raised last night which give us some concerns we may have to look into. But ultimately my feeling after watching it is that this is a matter for the Irish authorities.”

Some boxing insiders have suggested, with the board unable to act, only the Garda Síochána, Ireland’s police force, or the FBI can challenge Kinahan’s influence over boxing. Is Smith in agreement with this view? “I am because he is not licensed with us. He’s not licensed in Ireland. We can’t stop people taking advice from private individuals. That would be impossible.”

Smith added: “The programme hasn’t done the sport any good but we’ll move on and take any steps that are necessary. But I think it’s down to the authorities in Ireland to deal with the matter.”

Kinahan’s lawyers told the BBC he has no criminal convictions and dismissed the “wild” and “false” allegations against him. They said of Kinahan: “He is proud of his record in boxing to date. He has operated on the basis of honesty and with a commitment to putting fighters’ needs first. Mr Kinahan is a successful and independent adviser in the boxing industry.”

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Smith confirmed the governing body also has no power over Fury, the WBC world heavyweight champion, who praised Kinahan last year for successfully negotiating his two-fight unification deal with Anthony Joshua. “The issue with Tyson Fury is he is not licensed with the British Boxing Board. After his first world title fight with Deontay Wilder [in 2018], when he was licensed with us, Fury decided that due to the fact that he was going to be boxing in America for the next year or two, he would relinquish his British licence and box under a Nevada licence. So we have no jurisdiction over him.”

Does Smith believe that Sky Sports and BT Sport, the main television companies promoting boxing in Britain, should address the subject? Both companies were contacted on Tuesday but did not respond. “That is a matter for each company but it comes down to the same thing. We are dealing with someone who has not been licensed or convicted of anything.

“It just hasn’t done the sport any good at all. We’re going through a period where the sport has come together. To get boxing up and running again [in a pandemic] has been no mean feat. Boxing is more popular now than it has been for a long time and this does not help.”