Since 2017 boxing promoter Mack the Knife (MTK) Global has tried to distance itself from one of it’s founders; Daniel Kinahan, who Irish courts name as the leader of a $1 billion drug and arms trafficking cartel. However, questions have lingered over just how involved the mob boss is with what is now one of the most powerful companies in boxing. This month one of the most well known figures in the sport revealed how close Kinahan remains to MTK. Since then MTK have tried to control the conversation around their affiliation with Kinahan, while Kinahan himself seems to have embedded himself further into both boxing and the world of MMA.
MTK Global started life as Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM); a gym founded by former pro boxer Matthew Macklin and Daniel Kinahan.
In 2017, when MGM was rebranded as MTK, the company hired Sandra Vaughan as CEO and claimed that it had severed all ties with its notorious co-founder. MTK then developed into one of the most powerful organizations in boxing.
Today MTK represents Tyson Fury, Carl Frampton, Michael Conlan, Jamie Conlan, Billy Joe Saunders and dozens more boxers. As a promoter the company has deals with Top Rank and ESPN+. MTK also has an MMA-arm and currently represents Darren Till and a slew of other fighters.
During this period of growth, MTK has consistently denied that Kinahan was involved with the company. In response to persistent questions from Irish press about Kinahan MTK started boycotting Irish media. While they were denying that Kinahan was involved with MTK, evidence suggesting the contrary trickled out across the internet.
In November 2017 Macklin told the press that Kinahan, “still advises lots of fighters.” That year Kinahan also featured in a selfie with Tyson Fury. This year MTK client Darren Till spoke of his close personal friendship with Kinahan.
Last month Top Rank CEO Bob Arum connected Kinahan to MTK with perhaps the most overt and detailed comments on the matter to date.
Daniel Kinahan remains a trusted advisor to many of boxing’s most prominent figures and entities and is currently endeavouring to remove the barriers of promotional affiliations to get the fight made - possibly in the Middle East, where boxing is burgeoning. pic.twitter.com/qpy5sDq55X— Thomas Stalker (@ThomasStalker1) May 10, 2020
“We have been working all year, the past year with MTK,” said Arum in a video uploaded by MTK (h/t Boxing Scene). “Because of our connection with MTK, we’ve been able to get a whole host of events from MTK and televise them in the United States on ESPN+, which has more than 8 million subscribers. That’s been a big success. Our relationship with MTK has been tremendous, particularly with Dan [Kinahan] who was the original founder of MTK and now is still an adviser to them.”
“He is our adviser, in effect, regarding the [Middle] East,” continued Arum. “He’s lived in the [Middle] East and has very, very good connections. We, early on, ceded to Dan the authority to explore opportunities in the [Middle] East on behalf of Top Rank.”
Arum also said that Kinahan was proficient in handling feuds. “Sometimes promoters get full of themselves and carry out feuds against the other guy without looking at the bigger picture. Having a guy like Dan involved in that nonsense gets either diminished or cut out entirely.”
Reports in Ireland state that the Kinahan criminal organization, a $1 billion drug and arms smuggling outfit, has been involved in a gang war with the Hutch Gang since 2015. The war started when Gary Hutch — the nephew of alleged Hutch Gang leader Gerry Hutch — was killed by alleged Kinahan members in Spain. Since that killing at least 20 people have been murdered in Ireland and Spain.
Irish press and authorities believe that the 2016 Regency Hotel Shooting in Dublin, which targeted a weigh-in for an MTK boxing show, was carried out by the Hutch Gang in retaliation for a number of murders of Hutch family members and the failed assassination attempt on Gerry Hutch. That shooting killed top Kinahan lieutenant David Byrne, but it is believed that Daniel Kinahan was the intended target.
After the Regency Hotel shooting Kinahan fled to Dubai, where he has lived ever since.
On May 14th a video testimonial by MTK CEO Sandra Vaughan was uploaded to the iFL TV YouTube channel titled: SANDRA VAUGHAN (CEO OF MTK GLOBAL) CLARIFIES DANIEL KINAHAN / BOB ARUM COMMENTS, TALKS FUTURE OF MTK.
Vaughan said that Kinahan’s involvement with MTK stopped at being an advisor for Arum and as the person who introduced Arum to MTK. Vaughan admitted that this match-making was pivotal for MTK signing a lucrative deal with ESPN+.
“[Kinahan] wants MTK to do well, he was the founder of MTK Global,” said Vaughan.
“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.”
Since Vaughan’s comments KHK Sports, a company founded by Bahrain’s Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, announced it had hired Kinahan as a special advisor. KHK Sports has a number of boxing and MMA properties including BRAVE CF.
A few days later MTK announced it has formed a partnership with KHK Sports. In their press release MTK included a statement from Kinahan:
“This is a monumental move for KHK Sports and MTK Global. Both organizations’ have been making substantial waves in the international combats sports landscape and combined, the sky is the limit in what they can achieve. The only way for the sport to truly grow and be accessible to all, is to make it a truly global sport and this partnership will ensure that boxing is accessible to all in the Middle East and open the region to international opportunities.”
With this partnership MTK now publicly claims they are working with Daniel Kinahan on two fronts; through their partnerships with KHK Sports and Top Rank. Though, they remain to be elusive over what role Kinahan might have within their company.