Daniel Kinahan has been working hard to integrate himself into the boxing world since he co-founded MGM, a gym in Marbella, in 2012. In 2017 the company went through a rebranding, following a lengthy legal battle with the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, and was reborn as MTK Global.
MTK Global has emerged as a key promotional company in the British-boxing scene over the past few years, enjoying impressive growth and influence. The company has managed to build an extremely talented roster of fighters from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, which includes Carl Frampton, Billy Joe Saunders, and current heavyweight king Tyson Fury. Before a rebranding in 2017 MTK Global was known as MGM, Macklin’s Gym Marbella.
The two founding members were ex-boxer Matthew Macklin and his close friend Daniel Kinahan. Macklin had a good career on the British national circuit, holding multiple regional titles and challenger for world titles on a number of occasions, including against Gennady Golovkin for the WBA and IBO belts.
New management and the surge of MTK Global
In 2017 Kinahan and Macklin sold MTK Global to current CEO Sandra Vaughan. Since then Vaughan has led the company through three years of extreme expansion, from a fledgling roster to more than 330 professional athletes across 32 countries. Aside from representing fighters and organizing boxing events MTK Global has expanded into MMA and Bare-Knuckle Boxing, continuing to develop its stronghold in the fight game.
After the sale Kinahan’s role in the company diminished, he became a third-party adviser the team and to some for the fighters. CEO Sandra Vaughan recently clarified that Kinahan doesn’t hold an official role with the company and that any connection he still has is to the boxers themselves.
Regardless of his current role with MTK, or lack thereof, Kinahan was a key driving force in the creation and growth of some of the most exciting rosters in British boxing. MTK Global holds regular events at a regional level and is fast becoming synonymous with British and European level title fights.
Influence on the boxing landscape
Under the management of MTK Global, a huge number of fighters have been able to make huge financial strides in their careers. The connections that MTK Global has managed to create with Top Rank, Queensberry Promotions, Matchroom Boxing, and a host of others, have allowed them to give their fighters more financial security. As an intermediary, they have proven to be strong negotiators who look after their fighter’s best interests, with a growing network to benefit their fighters. Carl Frampton told BBC Sport, “It’s an organization I feel I can trust to be looking out for me”, in a sport where many boxers fail to make the money they deserve for a number of factors, MTK Global is offering many boxers the career they want.
Frampton himself has had troubles in the past, famously splitting with Barry McGuigan in 2017 over disputes over finances he claimed were withheld. These types of problems are not a rare occurrence for boxers, especially on a regional level, as the boxing world has long played host to a plethora of predatory companies and agents.
MTK Global, both under Kinahan and Macklin, and now Sandra Vaughan, has built a reputation for putting their fighters first. Boxers are the hardest workers in the boxing world, with everyone playing key support roles. The boxers are simultaneously the star, the athlete, the product, the marketing material, and the figurehead of their own brand. While in other sports there are team members to pick up the slack, or the opportunity to under-perform while injured, boxers must always put their body on the line if they want to make money.
The Middle-East connection
Some of Daniel Kinahan’s biggest contributions to the sport may be yet to come. Kinahan has been based in Dubai for the better part for the last decade, running many of his business endeavors from the United Arab Emirates. Kinahan’s positioning in the Middle-East has allowed him to form a network of potential partners with both extreme wealth and the desire to increase the number of foreign visitors to the Persian Gulf.
With a huge surge in events being held in the Middle-East in recent years, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, many neighboring countries have attempted to emulate their success and build similar reputations as holiday destinations and playgrounds of the rich and famous.
Most recently, Kinahan was named as a special adviser to KHK, the sports organization founded by the Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Khalifa. According to the Daily Mail, “Kinahan’s new role will see him oversee various projects involving mixed martial arts, boxing and combat sports. The BRAVE combat federation which he will work with is regarded as the largest MMA set up in the Middle East. It involves 40 nations and has put on events in countries such as Brazil, India, Mexico, and Kazakhstan. Bahrain has recently been ranked the number one nation in the amateur MMA with the sport a fast-growing attraction in the region.”
Kinahan’s new position, with a direct connection to one of the richest men in the Middle-East, will allow him to broker deals which will have a hugely important impact on British boxing. The influx from cash from the oil-rich nation, as well as the opportunity to stage financially successful fights during COVID-19, will provide a much-needed cash injection for boxing.
Much has been made about the economic uncertainty boxing faces and the questions about boxings future have been rife. We are already starting to see those at the bottom of the boxing world, amateur and lower-level professional fighters, being affected by the many fight cancellations. The lack of fights means that the boxers that live fight-purse to fight-purse, which is the overwhelming majority of professionals, are unable to earn a living at the moment. Some have had to change careers and take jobs that allow them to survive right now, instead of waiting for an unpredictable amount of time for boxing’s return.
While this year specifically has been a bad year for boxer’s earnings, the earning potential of boxers has been getting better and better over the past decade. Following a long period of declining popularity and support, boxing has been making a comeback in a big way. In the wake of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics being postponed until 2021 an unprecedented number of successful amateur boxers, many of them their country’s top Olympic hopefuls turned pro this year too. Faced with the frustration of four years of carefully timed preparation being turned on its head, many saw the increasing healthy earnings in the pro game as too much of a draw.
Now more than ever it is necessary for the boxing community to be looking abroad for venues, to accept the big-money deals that come with fighting in the Gulf States, at least to hold boxing afloat until the domestic market can sustain it again.
While the idea of holding the biggest fights in countries like Saudi Arabia has long been a point of contention for boxing fans, at the moment those venues are our only option and they provide enough money to keep the bigger promotional companies afloat, which in turn allows boxers to keep their contracts. While it’s true that fights like Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr. 2 could very easily have been held in Britain or Europe, in 2020 that possibility is not there.
For a number of years, the main offers to host fights in the Middle-East came from the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia. Now that Bahrain has been added to the mix, with the Prince’s lofty aspirations for his already successful sports company, the extra competition for British-boxing’s attention will only help the sport.
The CEO of the Brave Combat Federation, which Daniel Kinahan is now involved with, said “Daniel has the same vision for sports as us; changing lives, equal opportunities, making dreams come true and uniting the world through sports.” This extra connection between British boxing and extremely rich countries who are actually willing to inject large sums into the growth of the sport, has been a pipe-dream of many in the boxing community for years. Of the deal with KHK and the Bahraini Prince, Daniel Kinahan said “It is an honour for me to work with His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Khalifa, Mr Mohammed Shahid and the entire team at KHK Sports. KHK Sports has made an impressive mark on the world of combat sports and has fantastic ambitions to grow into a global powerhouse. I look forward to working with the team to realise these dreams and further build Bahrain combat sports into a globally recognised presence.”
Global leader’s summit in Bahrain
Wasting no time upon being positioned as KHK’s special adviser, Kinahan and Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad al Khalifa announced a conference focusing on the future of the boxing. The conference in Bahrain will take place in autumn and is to host some of boxing’s most influential people.
MTK Global wrote on their website, “KHK and MTK are proud to add that following the summit the Kingdom of Bahrain will host its first ever world title contest, broadcast live to the US, UK and around the world. Both the summit and the world title bout are confirmation that KHK and MTK remain committed to the continued growth of Bahrain as a world-renowned international sporting hub and that, with KHK and MTK’s support, the entire Middle Eastern region is open for major combat sports’ events.”
They take-away form this announcement is, “following the summit the Kingdom of Bahrain will host its first ever world title contest.” The summit takes place in Autumn, which means there are a number of high-profile fights that could happen after that. However, the timing of the summit, the forthcoming boxing calendar, and the involvement of Kinahan and MTK Global allow us to further narrow down the options, with one jumping out as a big possibility.
Fury v Joshua in Bahrain?
With Fury being the biggest name on the MTK roster, it was the first name that jumped out for a number of reasons. The Prince of Bahrain will likely be investing a huge amount of money in Bahrain’s first world-title fight and will want a huge name as a headliner. With Saudi Arabia purportedly paying $40 million to host Joshua v Ruiz Jr 2, a similar investment would require a similar level headliner. It would make sense that Kinahan, who has heavy ties to MTK and also a good business relationship with Eddie Hearn, would try to bring this fight to the table.
As Fury’s management company, MTK Global is already involved in the situation. Earlier last month Fury’s promoter Frank Warren said that a deal had been signed regarding the Fury v Joshua fight, with an unnamed country. Warren said, “There’s been offers made from various countries and organizations to host the fight between Tyson and Anthony Joshua. One of these countries we signed an NDA with, which I can’t go into. When I say me, I mean myself, MTK on the behalf of Top Rank, and I know Matchroom signed an NDA as well.”
That quote from Warren, particularly about the non-disclosure agreement, heavily suggests that Bahrain will be the host of this fight. Warren made that statement last month, this month Kinahan, MTK Global, and KHK make the statement about their global summit and upcoming world title fight. It would seem that the NDA was in place to allow MTK Global, the Prince of Bahrain, and KHK to come up with an official announcement, as well as to provide time for them to further negotiate.
Now that summit has been announced the likely next step is to see how Joshua and Fury’s next fights unfold. It would be unwise for all involved to announce Fury v Joshua before seeing how Joshua does against Pulev, or how Fury does against Wilder and then Dillian Whyte.
Kinahan has been an integral part of this arrangement, brokering the deal between Bahrain, MTK, Queensberry, Matchroom, and Top Rank. Without Kinahan’s involvement, KHK and Bahrain might never have been on the table at all. Much has been said Kinahan’s life outside of boxing, but it’s very clear that within the boxing world he has been having an extremely positive influence on things since he arrived on the scene.
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