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Top Rank paid alleged mob boss over $4M in consulting fees for Tyson Fury fights in Las Vegas

·Combat columnist
·7 min read
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Top Rank paid reputed Irish mobster Daniel Kinahan more than $1 million for each of four bouts involving Tyson Fury it promoted from 2019 through 2021, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told Yahoo Sports.

Arum, whose company will co-promote Fury’s April 23 title defense in London against Dillian Whyte with Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions, told Yahoo Sports Thursday he’d paid Kinahan “at least a million” in each of those four fights against Deontay Wilder twice, Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin. The fights between Fury and Wilder were each for the WBC heavyweight title. The other two bouts were non-title matches.

Top Rank paid the money to a company called Hoopoe Sports Agent that is registered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for what Arum said were consulting fees owed Kinahan. The deals for the Fury fights were put together by Harrison Whitman, Top Rank’s former general counsel, who is now the chief strategy and legal officer of a new boxing promotional company called Probellum.

Top Rank came to terms on a co-promotional deal for Fury on Feb. 18, 2019, not long after Fury’s split draw with Wilder, the then-WBC heavyweight champion, on Dec. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles. That bout was promoted and staged by Premier Boxing Champions and televised on pay-per-view by Showtime.

Kinahan is accused by the U.S. government of running an international drug ring and of trafficking firearms. At a news conference in Dublin Tuesday attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland and other high-ranking Biden Administration officials, the U.S. put sanctions on Kinahan, his father and brother and several associates.

The sanctions freeze his assets in the U.S., including bank accounts. His credit cards have been blocked and he can’t fly on U.S. airlines. The government put up a $5 million reward for his arrest and conviction, as well as rewards of $5 million each for his father, Christopher V. “Christy” Kinahan Sr. and his brother, Christopher V. Kinahan Jr.

Hoopoe Sports Agent was among the companies sanctioned.

Kinahan fled to Dubai, where he is now believed to live, in 2016 after rival gang members disguised as police officers tried to shoot him at a weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.

How Top Rank became involved with Daniel Kinahan

Top Rank, as have many in boxing, has begun to disassociate itself from Kinahan, as a result of the U.S. sanctions.

Kinahan helped found MTK Global in 2012, which has turned into a strong promotional company which promotes many of the sport’s biggest stars, including Fury.

Fury’s fight with Dillian Whyte on April 23 in London’s Wembley Stadium is expected to have a European record attendance of 94,000 fans. Arum said Thursday the live paid gate will be over $26 million.

Kinahan, he stressed, is not part of Saturday’s card and has not been involved in it from the beginning, Arum said.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Top Rank Founder and CEO Bob Arum (L) and boxer Tyson Fury laugh during a news conference at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fury will meet Otto Wallin in a heavyweight bout on September 14 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Bob Arum and Tyson Fury laugh during a news conference at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino on Sept. 11, 2019 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Arum was asked how he reconciled doing business with Kinahan at all considering his unsavory reputation when they began with each other approximately five years ago.

“Kinahan called me and we had a long conversation,” Arum told Yahoo Sports. “He has kids and he said he wanted to get out of that other stuff. He said to me, ‘Bob, I’ve done some bad things in my life. I admit that. But I’m not involved with that any more. I’m just trying to clean up my life and be a legitimate business man.’ I wasn’t involved in any of the things he might have done before and he was telling me he wasn’t doing anything.”

But Arum said after a smooth working relationship for a while, things began to change. Kinahan began to use bully tactics, Arum said, at the same time he was hearing that Kinahan may still have been involved in questionable activities.

Arum said that’s when his company began to fully disassociate with him.

“There came a time that we discovered that he might still have been involved in some nefarious activities,” Arum said. “That was enough for us.”

Arum, 90, is a Harvard-educated attorney. In 1961, he began working in the Kennedy Administration’s Justice Department in the tax division. In 1962, he was assigned to confiscate proceeds from a Sept. 25, 1962, heavyweight title bout between Sonny Liston and Floyd Patterson.

He met people during that process who led him to become a boxing promoter himself.

But he said he doesn’t expect the U.S. or any other government to conduct any raids on his event on April 23.

“We are complying with all government laws and regulations, as we always do,” Arum said. “But I don’t expect anything [like a seizure] to occur because Kinahan has had no involvement in this event whatsoever.”

MTK Global released a statement Thursday disassociating itself with Kinahan and insisting he’d not been with the company since 2017.

In a statement attributed to Bob Yalen, its CEO, MTK Global said it would comply with the U.S. sanctions handed down Tuesday.

“MTK Global will comply fully with the sanctions made by the US government against Daniel Kinahan. MTK parted ways with Mr Kinahan in February 2017. He has had no interest in the business since then, and will have no future involvement with us.

“MTK operates ethically, transparently and lawfully. We will cooperate fully with all authorities and assist with any ongoing investigations.

“MTK Global will take every measure to ensure the company, and those who deal with it are fully compliant with the US sanctions announced this week and take this matter extremely seriously.”

Arum said Top Rank wouldn’t credential anyone from either MTK Global or Probellum, a boxing promotional company formed in September, because of what he said were their ties to Kinahan.

Probellum denies ties to Daniel Kinahan

The name Probellum was originally owned by MTK Global to promote MMA fights. But Richard Schaefer, the Swiss banker and former CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who was hired on as Probellum’s president last year, vehemently denied any involvement with Kinahan.

The company is owned, Schaefer said, by British businessman Ali Shams Pour, who owns a soccer team in Ireland.

Probellum released a statement on Wednesday denying involvement with Kinahan.

“Probellum takes the sanctions made by the US Treasury extremely seriously and the business and its employees will be fully compliant with them.

“We have retained counsel in the U.S. to ensure that we fully comply with all rules, regulations and requirements related to this matter, including not working with any individual or company that has been placed under U.S. sanctions.

“This includes Daniel Kinahan and we can confirm that we will not have any business relationship or communication with him whatsoever.

“Bob Arum’s comments implying that Top Rank has ceased a business relationship with Probellum are baseless.

“Top Rank is a competitor and since Probellum’s inception, Top Rank has never worked directly with us. Any suggestions that Daniel Kinahan is a shareholder or owner of Probellum are false and defamatory.”

In a lengthy conversation with Yahoo Sports, Schaefer adamantly denied any ties to Kinahan but said the name Probellum and its logos and marks were chosen prior to him coming on board.

“I have a great life and I don’t need to do this,” Schaefer said. “I have a great wife of more than 30 years. My kids are doing well. Why would I want to do that [get involved with an alleged mobster] at this stage of my life? It makes no sense. I don’t need that.

“He is not with us and hasn’t been with us. It’s reckless of Bob to make those allegations.”