What could have been, and what might still be, for pro boxing in Ireland

Gavan Casey takes a look at the reshaping of the Irish professional boxing landscape post-MTK.


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BACK IN FEBRUARY 2018, the boxing management company MTK Global announced that its contracted fighters would no longer be permitted to speak with media in the Republic of Ireland.

MTK was attempting to distance itself from its co-founder, Daniel Kinahan, who started the company five and a half years prior, and its contention was that the Irish news media was unfairly vilifying the company and its boxers based on a link to Kinahan which no longer existed. In an video statement released online which — one can only imagine unintentionally — evoked scenes of an interruption to the regularly scheduled programming on TV screens across Gotham City, MTK CEO Sandra Vaughan claimed that the company had “cut all ties” with Kinahan 12 months beforehand.

MTK-managed boxers — 29 of whom at the time were either Irish or Northern Irish, including several Olympians — were mandated to add a banner to their social media profile pictures denouncing the Irish media and demanding ‘#FairNews’. The campaign was meticulously orchestrated and launched in unison. It was also, of course, mind-blowingly stupid.

Naturally, MTK’s British boxers had no qualms blasting the apparently corrupt Irish media of which they had no knowledge, and with which they had no existing relationship. Several of their Irish peers were happy to do the same, particularly one or two of the more recognisable stars whose pictures would typically sit adjacent to that of Kinahan in print stories which asked questions of MTK’s legitimacy.

Others broke rules and reached out privately to those of us journalists who had covered only the boxing portions of their careers to that point, expressing their discomfort at the campaign and the reality that, for the time being, all dialogue would have to be clandestine. It was quickly clear that for them to break rank publicly could amount to career suicide.

michael-conlan-and-miguel-marriaga Michael Conlan enjoyed a landslide victory over veteran two-time world-title challenger Miguel Marriaga earlier this month. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Incensed by the damage that this whole situation would inevitably cause Irish boxing, I vowed on Twitter not to cover any MTK fighter in any capacity until ‘The Ban’, as it became known, was lifted. (Whether or not you believe I should have even been covering them in the first place is up to you; I will fully admit to taking a sip of MTK’s Kool Aid as a young boxing writer and, four or five years on, it still repeats on me).

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Equally incensed by my tweet, Michael Conlan sent me a message asking me why I would be taking such a hardline stance against covering him specifically when I knew The Ban had been foisted on him and was nothing personal against me.

And I understood his annoyance — because Michael Conlan had always been better to me as a sportsperson than I had been to him as a sportswriter…

Originally published at 13:27…

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