Last weekend Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez outclassed Avni Yıldırım to defend his WBA (Super), WBC and The Ring super middleweight titles. Next up for the man many are calling the greatest boxer on the planet is a bout with Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO super middleweight title.
After Eddie Hearn confirmed Saunders was next for Alvarez, Saunders thanked the man he said was responsible for making it all happen: Daniel Kinahan, the alleged leader of the Kinahan Organized Crime Group (KOCG), a $1 billion drug trafficking ring that was founded in Dublin and operates across Europe, South America, Africa and Oceania.
According to the Sunday World, Saunders uploaded a video in which he said, “Big thank you obviously to MTK Global and also thank you to my advisor, Daniel [Kinahan], as well because without him, this fight wouldn’t have happened.”
“He was the one who secured it over the line and gave me that bit of advice to say ‘yay or ‘nay’ and what I should do, so thank you very much.”
Saunders is one of a handful of fighters represented by MTK Global who have claimed that they have been working with Kinahan throughout their careers. These claims are in contrast to MTK’s official line on Kinahan—that he hasn’t been involved with the company since around the time one of their boxing weigh-in shows was attacked by gunmen in 2016.
That attack resulted in the death of David Byrne, a suspected top lieutenant in the KOCG. However, it is thought that Kinahan himself was the intended target. Authorities believe that attack was carried out by the Hutch Gang as part of the ongoing Hutch-Kinahan feud that began when Gary Hutch was murdered by suspected Kinahan associates in 2015.
Since the 2016 shooting MTK has grown to be one of the more powerful boxing companies in the world. Along with Saunders they represent Tyson Fury, Michael Conlan, Carl Frampton and dozens of other top boxers. The company’s MMA wing represents a slew of UFC talent including Darren Till, Dusko Todorovic and Su Mudaerji. MTK has deals with Top Rank Promotions, ESPN+ and the apparel line Everlast.
Kinahan and MTK caused controversy last year when Tyson Fury did exactly what Saunders has just done, thank Kinahan for securing the biggest fight of his career.
Fury’s shout out to Kinahan happened when Fury confirmed that he would be fighting Anthony Joshua. The revelation that Kinahan had personally negotiated that deal, and many others in Fury’s career, lead to an immediate backlash.
Politicians in Ireland called for the fight to be boycotted. Ireland’s government also contacted the United Arab Emirates, where Kinahan now resides, to inform their counterparts that Kinahan is accused of operating the country’s most notorious organized crime syndicate.
Throughout all this controversy Kinahan received public support from Saunders. Saunders said he was considering quitting boxing over the treatment Kinahan was receiving. He also said Ireland should “appreciate” Kinahan for what he has done in the boxing world.
Recently it was revealed that Saunders had contacted an Irish journalist to try and arrange an interview with Kinahan, with the hopes of securing a positive story on him.
In boxing Saunders carries a 30-0 record (14 KOs). He has held and defended the WBO super middleweight title since 2019. It was thought Saunders may have lost his chance at his massive Canelo payday when his license was suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control in 2020. That suspension came after Saunders uploaded a video offering tips to men about how to physically abuse their domestic partners while facing a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.