WBO super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders says he has received “a lot of harassment” and lost sponsorship deals in the aftermath of a BBC Panorama investigation into boxing.
The documentary revealed a suspected crime boss is still working at the top of the sport. Daniel Kinahan has no criminal convictions but has been named in the Irish courts as the head of one of Europe’s most prominent drug cartels.
The suspected gangster helped set up boxing management business MTK Global – but it was announced last year he was stepping away from the sport.
However, the company has confirmed he still advises some of its boxers.
The BBC team who produced the Panorama programme have since received threats.
Police in Northern Ireland have warned them about an unspecified threat from unnamed criminal elements in relation to the programme, which was broadcast on Monday.
Writing on social media, British fighter Saunders said: “I have known Daniel Kinahan a long time. I have always had a very positive relationship with him.
“I am aware of the allegations made against him but I simply do not accept them.
“Unfortunately I have received a lot of harassment and lost significant sponsorship deals as a result of the allegations made by Panorama and other members of the media.”
Saunders, who is among more than 200 fighters managed by MTK, threatened to walk away from the sport last year after news that Kinahan was leaving the Dubai-based firm.
Earlier this week, Saunders made several disparaging remarks on social media about former world champion Barry McGuigan, who was interviewed by Panorama.
McGuigan told the programme he had concerns about Kinahan’s influence in the sport.
It emerged in June last year that Kinahan had been working as a personal adviser to world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury before his much-anticipated fight with fellow Briton Anthony Joshua.
Panorama asked Fury whether Kinahan was still his personal adviser, but he did not respond.
Speaking on Friday, Eddie Hearn – who promotes both Joshua and Saunders – said it was “business as usual” and he anticipated “no impact” on the fight between Fury and Joshua.
“That news broke to the boxing world quite a long time ago,” he said. “I think it reached a bigger audience than the normal for boxing.
“The fight is much bigger. It’s so big it’ll be the only thing discussed amongst the fans.”
Hearn said no sponsors or broadcasters had expressed concern to him since the broadcast.
However, one MP has said Panorama raised “major issues” for both the Irish and UK governments, and the boxing authorities.
Stephen Farry, deputy leader of the Alliance Party, told the BBC he was “very concerned about the influence of Daniel Kinahan over international boxing”.
“The Panorama team should be congratulated,” he said.
“Last year, I raised some of these issues with the UK government and the response was dismissive. I now intend to table a series of follow-up questions.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC the film raised “very worrying allegations”.
“I know that, as appropriate, the police will investigate them, and I’m sure the boxing authorities will similarly want to take these allegations seriously, because it’s in everyone’s interests to have an open sport that everyone can enjoy,” he said.
The British Boxing Board of Control has said it is powerless to stop Kinahan advising boxers as it does not regulate such roles and he is not licensed with them.
Lawyers for MTK Global told Panorama that while Kinahan “provides some personal advice to a number of boxers managed by MTK Global”, he had never owned, controlled or been an employee of the company.
Kinahan’s lawyers told the programme he has no criminal convictions and the allegations about him running a violent cartel are false and have no evidential basis.
“He is proud of his record in boxing to date. He has operated on the basis of honesty and with a commitment to putting fighters’ needs first,” they said.
“Mr Kinahan is a successful and independent adviser in the boxing industry in his own right. It is a matter of public record that he has exited the business of MTK.”