WHEN news broke on Saturday that heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk had signed a promotional deal with Skills Challenge Entertainment (SCEE) in Saudi Arabia, it didn’t take long for some on social media to add Daniel Kinahan’s name to the discussion.
Less sinister plotlines were being suggested too. The announcement came two months after Usyk pulled out of negotiations with Tyson Fury for a clash at Wembley Stadium, so members of the Englishman’s team were quick to suggest that the Ukrainian had been in cahoots with the Saudis throughout. Boxing News understands this is untrue, however. Talks about the promotional deal began after that deal collapsed so spectacularly.
Yet it’s the menacing spectre of Kinahan that should be more troubling. Fourteen months after the Irishman was sanctioned by the US Treasury, his ongoing presence behind the scenes has been confirmed by several insiders. Yet there’s no evidence to prove that Kinahan is involved in Saudi boxing, at least not anymore. Lessons were learned by SCEE – keen to be taken seriously and move forward without sticky fingers clawing at their reputation – the moment Kinahan (officially) became one of the world’s most wanted men in April last year. At that point in time, BN understands, Kinahan’s involvement ceased.
It’s also exceptionally important to note that the Saudis were far from the only ones who had dealings with Kinahan in the past. In fact, it’s difficult to pinpoint many promotional groups who Kinahan hasn’t worked closely alongside in recent years, particularly as his influence grew significantly at the start of 2020. Boxing News has been told by multiple sources that he bankrolled some major events in Britain during the two-year pandemic; fights that otherwise could not have possibly occurred in such a restrictive economic environment.
Even those who managed to distance themselves from Kinahan, and there are a few, will have found it harder to not work with an individual – boxer, trainer, promoter, manager, or advisor – who at some point had dealings with him. And that’s perhaps why those in the sport who presumed that Kinahan’s involvement in boxing would come to an end the moment he was sanctioned were sorely mistaken. The tentacles that he used to tickle the chins of so many were never going to disappear without a fight. But it’s a fight that even Kinahan can’t win, Nicola Tallant, the Investigations Editor of Sunday World, told BN. “He’s in Dubai and he’s incapable of leaving and, from my information from people pretty close to him, he’s going to bed every night wondering if tomorrow morning is the day they knock on the door,” she said.
“He’s [Kinahan’s] like a guy who’s been thrown off the side of the ship with one hand still clinging on. He’s so determined about boxing but it’s undoubted that his day is coming. We don’t fully understand the nuances that exist with the United Arab Emirates but there is nobody in the history of organised crime who has escaped when their face is on a wanted poster. Not terrorists, nobody. He’s done for and he knows it.” Consequently, Tallant is reluctant to call Kinahan a ‘free man’. “I don’t call it total freedom, it’s a prison of sorts, but one where he is undoubtedly able to mix with people in boxing and do some business.”
The true extent of that business is unknown. But the clues are everywhere if you dare to look closely enough. There’s the new promotional groups with money trails leading straight back to Kinahan, and other promoters, based in the UK, who can stage events with multiple championship 12-rounders on the same bill without TV backing. Look, too, at certain members of the media and who they choose to interview and the stories they decide to ignore, the familiar faces making the same old noises, and the mixing and matching of company names. What’s infuriating some is that those who championed Kinahan, only to go all sheepish last year, are now not being forced to lie in beds of their own making. Instead, they flaunt the mansions his money helped to build.
But not everyone who once helped is still keen to continue to do so. “There’s a lot of people within boxing who are waiting for him to be arrested and then their problem is taken off their hands,” Tallant said. “I think that people are really afraid of him, they’re terrified of him and with good reason. He’s capable of anything so when he’s behind bars, be that in Ireland or the US, I think it would solve a lot of people’s problems.”
The problems are not purely of Daniel Kinahan’s making. They speak of a failure from boxing authorities – namely commissions and governing bodies – to create a suitable barrier for entry. Tallant says it best: “He was let in the door and allowed to put his feet up.”
The gates are still open. There is nothing to stop the next Daniel Kinahan strolling in and making himself at home, it’s true. But even though boxing authorities are unable or unwilling to keep track, Tallant is sure that the real authorities have been watching very carefully.
On Monday June 5, Liam Byrne, a man known as Kinahan’s ‘key lieutenant’, was arrested in Spain. The net would appear to be closing in and those who had dealings with Kinahan in the past may soon regret them, regardless of the riches accrued.
“I would suspect there’s a lot going on in regard to money laundering in boxing,” Tallant explained. “They think they may have got away with this because they feel untouchable, they feel above the law. People who are corrupted by drug money, maybe the first time they get a wad of cash they have never had before they feel a tinge of something, maybe not guilt, but something. But the more used to it they get, it becomes the norm to them. They start to feel like they deserve it, that they’ve earned it. It’s the only way you can live with it.
“When the Kinahans left Spain to move to Dubai, they couldn’t bring everything with them,” Tallant went on. “Their money, their land, their properties, all of that, is based in Spain. There’s a huge amount of people based there who are working for them there. The boxers, or those within boxing, who have done the same – laundered money for them – will undoubtedly be targeted by the police.”
Those who sang Kinahan’s praises the loudest will have been the ones who draw the most attention. Tallant would not be surprised to see some key figures in boxing soon face arrest. “It can be a slow process and you feel like they’ve got away with it,” she said. “But the police are not going to let them walk away.”