Over the years in which controversy has swirled over MTK Global and their relationship to their co-founder Daniel Kinahan—a man Irish courts have named as leader of a $1 billion drug trafficking empire—few have been as outspoken in their support for Kinahan as WBO super-middleweight champion (and MTK client) Billy Joe Saunders.
Despite Irish tabloids and politicians labelling Kinahan as a brutal crime lord, whose forces are engaged in a bloody gang war that has killed at least 18 people, Saunders has released statement after statement celebrating Kinahan’s work in the world of boxing.
Recently, the BBC added their voice to the chorus expressing concerns over Kinahan and his links to boxing. In their program ‘Boxing and the Mob’, they alleged that Kinahan remains a central figure at MTK, a company that has swelled to become one of the most powerful management companies in combat sports and which represents Tyson Fury, Michael Conlan and Darren Till among many other boxers and MMA fighters.
Nicola Tallant, the investigations editor with the Irish Sunday World newspaper, came forward last week to reveal that Saunders had been in touch with her with the goal of securing positive news coverage for Kinahan.
The Guardian reports that Tallant shared direct messages she received on Twitter from Saunders. In those messages Saunders purportedly asked Tallant if she would like to fly to Dubai to meet with Kinahan.
Tallant refused, citing that she had been threatened by suspected Kinahan associates in the past for her crime reporting.
Saunders offered the alternative that he, Tallant and Kinahan jump on a Zoom call, saying to Tallant he could, “set you up on a date as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner”.
After these initial messages, a lengthy—and rare—public statement from Kinahan appeared on talkSport. In that statement Kinahan refuted all claims made by the BBC regarding allegations he was involved in organized crime.
After this statement Tallant received more messages from Saunders. In those messages Saunders promised he could give Tallant a big ‘scoop’ if only she would first write “something anything at all positive” about Kinahan.
“I’m not asking you to be his best friend,” he wrote. “But I’m sure you have heard a lot of good about Daniel and it wouldn’t hurt to publish it and if you do I think it’s fair to say you deserve the zoom call and I would love to set it up with you as I think you are a very intelligent woman”.
Tallant declined the offer.
Saunders is currently training for a bout with Canelo Alvarez scheduled to take place on May 8.
Last year it seemed Saunders might have blown his chance at the biggest payday of his career when his boxing license was suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control as punishment for an offensive video he posted online. In the video Saunders demonstrated methods of beating your domestic partner while locked down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018 the BBBofC reprimanded Saunders and fined him around $140,000 for uploading a video of him taunting a person-without-housing from the seat of his Rolls Royce. Saunders is seen telling a woman that he would give her crack cocaine if she performed sex acts or punched a passer-by.
Recently Saunders was accused of taunting former boxer and current boxing manager Barry McGuigan over the death of McGuigan’s daughter. McGuigan, who recently reached a settlement in a lengthy legal dispute with MTK, lost his daughter to cancer in 2019.
This month Saunders posted an Instagram story with various taunts aimed at McGuigan, including an image of a rat and a caption that read: “Anyone know we’re I can get a cage for McGuigan just look at him he is a bit scruffy and smelly.”
After this story Saunders posted an image with text that read: “Any flower shops for Valentines so I can send my daughter thank you DM me.”
Saunders then posted images using the hashtag #postpicturesofyourdaughter.
Saunders has denied that his posts mentioning daughters are connected to his posts regarding McGuigan.
Earlier this week Saunder’s promoter Eddie Hearn suggested that his client quit social media before he does irreparable harm to his career.
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