Tyson Fury fight week tainted by heavyweight champion's silence on ties to alleged mobster

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·Combat columnist
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It is less than five days before he walks to the ring at Wembley Stadium in London to defend his titles against Dillian Whyte and heavyweight champion Tyson Fury still has not disassociated himself from alleged mobster Daniel Kinahan.

Promoter Frank Warren told the BBC Monday that Kinahan, whom the U.S. government contends runs one of the largest drug cartels in the world, has had no involvement in Saturday’s bout for the WBC and lineal heavyweight titles.

But Fury, who was pictured with Kinahan in Dubai in February, has yet to disavow his adviser.

The U.S. government last week at an extraordinary news conference in Dublin, Ireland, tabbed Kinahan as the leader of the Kinahan Organized Crime Group. He’s suspected of murder, of being the leader of one of the largest drug cartels in the world and a gun trafficker.

At the news conference, U.S. government officials put a $5 million reward on Kinahan, as well as $5 million each on his father and brother, for his arrest and conviction. The Kinahans have been notorious for years in their native Ireland, though the U.S. government’s involvement in their case ratchets up the scrutiny on them worldwide.

Sanctions put into place by the U.S. are designed to prevent Kinahan from seeing any of that, but mobsters don’t easily walk away from the kind of money this fight will produce. In Fury’s four fights in Las Vegas from 2019 through 2021, Kinahan earned a minimum of $1 million a bout as consulting fees for fights against Tom Schwarz, Otto Wallin and two against Deontay Wilder.

Saturday's fight is sold out with a European-record crowd of around 94,000 expected. The paid gate will be more than $20 million U.S. The pay-per-view in the U.K. could hit 2 million, and with another several hundred thousand in the U.S. at $75 a pop, a more than tidy sum will be generated.

Fury himself will earn the bulk of it. But how much of the money that is generated will go to Daniel Kinahan may never be known.

Though he’s normally referred to as “an adviser,” Kinahan is one of the world’s most prolific managers of boxers. He is the co-founder of MTK Global, though the company said in a news release last week it's had nothing to do with him since 2017.

Scores of fighters, though, take Kinahan's advice and offer their fealty to him. He become powerful because he’d offer low, or sometimes no, managerial fees. He’s been accused of getting into combat sports to launder both money he earned from the drug business as well as to enhance his reputation. He’s garnered more fighters and gained more success as he’s landed more prominent fighters. The most prominent of those has been Fury.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum is Fury’s co-promoter, and has worked closely with the alleged mob boss for several years. Several times during that span, Arum said Kinahan would no longer advise Fury, but Kinahan always managed to stick around.

In a June 24, 2020, story in the Irish Times, Arum lavished Kinahan with praise even as he said Kinahan was out. At the time, talks were ongoing to put together a fight between Fury and Anthony Joshua, who had three of the four heavyweight belts.

“We’ve talked with Dan [Kinahan], 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,” Arum told the Irish Times about talks for a Fury-Anthony Joshua fight. “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.”

World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title holder Britain's Tyson Fury reacts during a press conference at Wembley Stadium in west London on March 1, 2022. - Tyson Fury is set to have his first bout on home soil in nearly four years when he defends his World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title in an all-British clash against Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium on April 23. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Tyson Fury has yet to disavow alleged mobster Daniel Kinahan ahead of Saturday's fight versus Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Kinahan has lived in Dubai since 2016. He fled there after rival gang members, disguised as police officers, ambushed a weigh-in for an MTK Global fight card and shot it up, killing one man. Police in Ireland believe Kinahan was the target.

Officials at the Dublin news conference last week advised those in combat sports to stay away from Kinahan and urged them not to do business with him. The sanctions the U.S. put on him freeze his assets, including his bank accounts, in this country.

Despite that, his most prominent client hasn’t taken a public stance against him. Fury has been reluctant to speak about Kinahan in the past, but the seriousness of the charges and President Biden’s interest in his case ratchets up the pressure on him to do something.

Fury, and other fighters advised/managed by Kinahan, had plausible deniability prior to last week’s news conference. That cover, though, no longer exists.

During the Watergate investigation in 1973, U.S. Sen. Howard Baker became famous when he asked then-White House counsel John Dean: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"

To paraphrase the late Sen. Baker, what did Fury know about Kinahan’s past and when did he know it?

No one is alleging that Fury, or any of the other fighters, are involved in untoward activities with Kinahan. But by ignoring the serious allegations against him, it provides Kinahan the cover to continue laundering money through the fight game.

The other problem is that mobsters have many times in the past attempted to fix the outcome of fights. With legalized betting on fights pretty much worldwide now, the integrity of the matches are paramount.

While there is no allegation or indication that Kinahan or anyone close to him has done this, it’s happened frequently enough in the past when the American mob was involved with boxing to create a concern.

Fury doesn’t need the taint that Kinahan now brings. Kinahan has given fighters money to help them out of his personal wealth. The result is that Kinahan fighters are exceptionally loyal. Most, if ever asked about associating with him, have responded that he hadn’t been charged or convicted of a crime. That’s now changed.

Given the U.S. government’s actions last week, it’s time for all of those who do business with Kinahan to do the same as Fury must do: Cut all ties with Kinahan before it’s too late.

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