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Kinahan slips back into boxing's shadows but questions remain for key players in the sport

Daniel Kinahan will remain a highly influential figure in boxing but for now, his real dream seems to be over.

Tyson Fury will no longer use the Dubliner as a negotiator, per his promoter Bob Arum.
Tyson Fury will no longer use the Dubliner as a negotiator, per his promoter Bob Arum.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

DANIEL KINAHAN REALISED he was veering dangerously close to the sun and so he lowered his altitude.

It would appear for all intents and purposes as though the Dubliner has withdrawn what amounted to a boxing leadership bid, WBC World heavyweight champion Tyson Fury parting company with his ‘special advisor’ less than two weeks after shouting Kinahan’s name into living rooms around the world as he gratuitously thanked him for getting over the line the very basic first stage of negotiations for a megafight against fellow Briton Anthony Joshua.

But there were no Instagram videos today. Instead, it was Fury’s US promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, who told The Telegraph that “over the weekend, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Tyson Fury and what we both decided is that myself, Top Rank and Fury will do all negotiations for fights in the future, whether it’s for Joshua or Wilder or anybody else.

“We’ve informed Eddie Hearn about that,” Arum said of his counterpart on Joshua’s side of the bargain. “He knows where to go for the negotiations. Tyson and I have had long negotiations about it. That’s the way it’s going to be.

This will eliminate a lot of confusion. We’ve talked with Dan, who Tyson and I both love and admire and respect, and he understands that it’s best the negotiations on Tyson’s side be handled that way. Both Tyson and I have each discussed this with Dan and he is amenable and satisfied and wished us luck. He only wants the best for Tyson Fury.

Arum has in recent weeks championed his ‘captain in the Middle East’, Kinahan, at every opportunity, displaying a kind of unabashed amorality one can likely only cultivate by spending half a century pulling strings in a business as mawky as professional boxing. The 88-year-old knows which side his bread is buttered on and has, in the past, worked with his promotional rival Don King who literally killed two men in 1954 and 1967 respectively.

Kinahan has no criminal convictions but has been named in the Irish High Court as the controller of an international drug gang which is worth a billion euro, spans three continents and has been linked to countless deaths across the world.

But to Arum, and to many key players in boxing, he’s just some guy whose financial riches make him worth knowing. “Anything that went before — allegedly went before — that’s none of my business,” Arum, a former federal prosecutor, told the Irish Sun last month. Most boxing promoters would nod and agree with such a sentiment. They consider willful ignorance to be a job requirement.

So, why, then, has a decision been taken — either by Arum or by Kinahan himself — to curtail this most harmonious of partnerships, or at least hide it from public view?

imago-20190612 Fury (L) and Arum (middle). Source: Imago/PA Images

Really, Kinahan’s supposed withdrawal from the equation is simply an attempt to shield a prospective Fury-Joshua fight from more of the backlash it has been receiving since Fury sang his close friend’s praises 12 days ago: the public naming and shaming; the probing by journalists not only from Ireland but also several based in the UK and the USA; the hurried and worried statements from the prospective fight’s prospective UK broadcasters, Sky Sports and BT Sport.

Pure damage-control spin? Absolutely. But trivial? No.

Daniel Kinahan’s bid to become one of the most influential figures in boxing has for the most part been a success: he will remain a ‘power broker’ in the Middle East, he will continue to advise fighters whose affections he has purchased, and promoters will continue to work with him on a regular basis. But all of this would still have been possible even without the concoction of the Regency Hotel shooting conspiracy and its accompanying eBook, rap song and ‘documentary’, and the orchestration of a rigorous campaign to scrub his name by way of having some of the most recognisable names in the sport wax lyrical about their old pal, ‘Dan’.

All of those efforts were about manufacturing something more spectacular: not merely influence, but legitimate fame. That has been Kinahan’s raison d’être for many years: to become a celebrated kingpin in the sport that he and his family adore; to become the figure that major fighters make a point of thanking in the ring after their successes much in the same way as an actor might thank God while thumbing their Academy Award.

As it turns out, the only spectacular thing about any of this is how thoroughly Kinahan failed to read the room when the Jaws theme tune sounded. Instead of stepping back out of the spotlight, he tried to hog it with gimmicky tributes from fighters and figures of significant stature within the sport, including Fury, whose endorsement set off more alarms. Somewhat poetically, the subsequent involvement of the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar — leader of the political party accused in the Regency documentary of conspiring with the gardaí and the media to have Kinahan murdered in 2016 — proved terminal to his masterplan.

kinahan Daniel Kinahan.

As for what happens next, the gnawing feeling is that with Kinahan slipping back into the shadows just as he did in 2017, interest in the story will fall by the wayside just as it did then — particularly what with there now being live sport from which the sports pages can be filled.

That’s exactly what he’ll want but it can’t be allowed to happen, for a multitude of questions remain.

For one thing, he still works as a de facto manager for several fighters. One suspects the clever ones will keep their mouths shut and try to wait for all of this madness to pass, and as for Billy Joe Saunders, who knows?

But what about the management company to which most, if not all of those fighters, are contracted? MTK Global will perhaps feel on this occasion that they don’t need to distance themselves from Kinahan yet again; the manner in which he restructured his ties to the company he co-founded, via a partnership with Bahraini-based KHK Sport for whom he was officially an advisor, left MTK a degree separated from Kinahan on paper. KHK have since claimed to have cut ties with him and, as such, there is once more no official, on-paper connection between Kinahan and MTK.

The reality, though, is that Kinahan is a key component of MTK’s success whether or not his name is on a door in the company’s offices in Dubai, where he happens to currently reside.

And one wonders why MTK’s CEO, Sandra Vaughan, has been so often at pains to deny that her company has any official relationship with him. A few weeks ago, she claimed Ireland ‘should be proud’ of Kinahan for all he has achieved in boxing, so why have MTK never fully embraced his role in their own rise to prominence?

vaughan Sandra Vaughan announcing MTK Global's boycott of Irish media in 2018.

It’s worth remembering that while announcing her management company’s boycott of Irish media in February 2018, Vaughan said: “Despite announcing MTK Global cutting all ties with Daniel Kinahan in February 2017, and announcing a full management buy-in by myself in October 2017, the Irish media have continued to vilify MTK Global in all and any mention of Irish boxing and MTK Global-signed boxers. How are we ever meant to move forward as an organisation when we keep being dragged into the past by media?”

As for the future, Kinahan’s name may slip from wider consciousness by 2021 but millions will sit comfortably and watch Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua trade blows in Saudi Arabia, a country whose interpretation of sharia law dictates that gay people can be chemically castrated or stoned to death.

Kinahan may well emerge from the shadows and make another go of boxing stardom down the road. Perhaps he could reinvent himself as ‘The Artist Formerly Known As The Controversial Businessman Daniel Kinahan’ and release a series of haikus about love and loss.

For now, it would appear as though the front door to his dream of becoming synonymous with the sport he adores has been locked. The trouble for professional boxing is that the back door is always left on the latch.

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