Why Daniel Kinahan can’t resist the lure of boxing’s bright lights

International drug trafficker suffers major setback in bid to sit at sport’s top table

 

Christy Kinahan left Ireland almost 20 years ago and settled in southern Spain where he built a significant drugs wholesale business supplying narcotics into many European markets, including Ireland.

The sheer scale of his operation meant Kinahan was a regular in the media. However, he has never courted media attention, opting instead to keep a low profile as he grew rich off the drugs trade.

His location has often been unknown to the media for periods of years. And very few new photographs of him have emerged in the newspapers over the past 20 years.

He has not always succeeded in escaping the media’s spotlight but he has always done his very best in that regard; clearly taking a view that having a public profile was bad for someone in the international drugs trafficking business.

His eldest son may have inherited his father’s street smarts but unlike the older man, Daniel Kinahan (42) has a real weakness for the limelight. It is an Achilles heel making him more vulnerable by the week.

When he followed his father to southern Spain, and into the drugs business in the early 2000s, Daniel Kinahan made the kind of moves his father has always recoiled from.

He co-founded the MGM boxing gym and promotions company in Marbella; bringing considerable media attention on himself through his association with well-known pro boxers.

He regularly posed for photos with his fighters or was pictured presenting over-sized cheques to charities to demonstrate his generosity.

All the images featuring a beaming Kinahan were posted for public - and media - consumption on the gym’s website and social media accounts over a period of years when his father wasn’t photographed in public even once.

In the summer of 2015, Daniel Kinahan’s double life of international drugs trafficker and boxing company owner very nearly came to an end. Dublin bank robber and drug dealer Gary Hutch fell out with Kinahan and tried to shoot him dead. However, he botched the attack and was himself murdered, in Spain, in September, 2015. Hutch’s associates blamed Kinahan, whose life was under threat from them.

At the time Kinahan was making plans to launch himself into the world of the big time international fight game by running his own fight nights around the world. The first event, Clash of the Clanns, was set to take place in his native Dublin in February, 2016.

Despite the risk to his life from people who lived in the capital, Kinahan went ahead with his plans only to be targeted by an armed gang at the event’s weigh-in in the Regency Hotel. He escaped on foot but his associate David Byrne (34) was shot dead and the boxing event was called off.

With his life under continued threat, Kinahan soon decamped from Spain to Dubai. All the while, his toxic profile grew in Ireland as the body count in the Kinahan-Hutch feud, sparked by the Gary Hutch murder and the Regency attack, mounted.

In 2017, Daniel Kinahan sold his boxing promotions business, which has since morphed into MTK Global and boasts a stable of some of the world’s best fighters.

Meanwhile, he continued to run his drugs empire, taking over the enterprise from his father, and meticulously planned his second coming in boxing; another effort to launch himself as an international global player.

Those plans finally swung into action in recent months. An online book, a rap video and mini documentary were published online within weeks of each other. They all pushed the narrative that Kinahan had gone straight and was being dragged down by a conspiracy between the Government and Garda in Ireland.

Then came a series of press releases at the end of which, all going to plan, Kinahan’s place in the spotlight of world boxing would be secured; something he has coveted more than anything.

Tyson Fury: his camp said Daniel Kinahan would no longer negotiate for the boxer. Photograph: Reuters
Tyson Fury: his camp said Daniel Kinahan would no longer negotiate for the boxer. Photograph: Reuters

Last month, it was announced he was working as an adviser for KHK Sport, a combat sports company founded by a member of the Bahraini royal family. A press release credited him with brokering a new international partnership between MTK Global and KHK Sport that would bring lucrative boxing and MMA fights to the Middle East.

It was further announced he was a key figure behind a summit of boxing’s key promoters in Bahrain in September at which the future of the sport would be discussed. The week before last world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury took to social media to announce Kinahan had just put in place “the most lucrative fight in British boxing history”; between Fury and fellow British heavyweight Anthony Joshua, planned for next year.

The news was so big it was debated in the Dáil; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joining a chorus of concern about a criminal figure like Kinahan suddenly being confirmed as one of world boxing’s greatest deal makers. British MPs also raised their voices and the domestic and international media began focusing on Daniel Kinahan and his links to organised crime.

Last week, the Bahrainis were the first to fold in the face of intense pressure; the government there releasing a statement to media outlets stating KHK Sport was dropping Kinahan as an adviser, citing “integrity and deep-rooted principles in the sports industry”.

The Fury camp then followed suit, announcing Daniel Kinahan would no longer negotiate for the boxer.

It declared it still “loved” and “respected” Kinahan. The statement seems to have put an end to the Dubliner’s second coming in boxing, but his background role as deal fixer and day job as international drugs trafficker look set to continue.