Boxing chiefs to meet gardai over safety concerns following Regency weigh-in attack
Professional boxing chiefs are to hold a summit with senior gardaí amid fears over public safety at events in the wake of the Regency Hotel gun attack and murder.
Several respected boxing figures have expressed concern about gangster elements associating themselves with the professional arm of the sport.
Daniel Kinahan, son of crime godfather Christy Kinahan, has been acting as a manager for a number of boxers attached to the MGM gym in Spain in recent years.
A murder squad stormed the Regency Hotel during a weigh-in for an MGM event on February 5, shooting dead Kinahan associate David Byrne and seriously injuring two others.
The Boxing Union of Ireland (BUI), which supervises professional bouts, confirmed that it had arranged to meet with an Assistant Garda Commissioner and was seeking discussions with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
BUI president Mel Christle told the Irish Independent the union would be seeking advice on public-safety issues.
"We have various suggestions to put to the gardaí," he said, "but the reality is that since they (the gardaí) are responsible for public safety, we want to know how we can help them."
When asked if gangsterism was threatening the reputation of Irish professional boxing, Mr Christle said: "I don't wish to speak about it until I have spoken to the proper authorities."
Many observers believe that MGM, which also has gyms in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, will be unable to promote fights in Ireland again in the aftermath of the Regency shootings.
Its facility in Marbella is used as the training gym for prominent Birmingham-born Irish fighter Matthew Macklin, who has no involvement in crime.
Talented boxers in the MGM ranks include Jamie Conlan, brother of Olympic medallist Michael, Jamie Kavanagh, Declan Geraghty and, until his retirement yesterday, Anthony Fitzgerald.
However, Daniel Kinahan has a close association with MGM and has been seen ringside at events involving its fighters.
One reporter made a complaint to gardaí after being intimidated by 'heavies' in Kinahan's entourage at an event in the National Stadium last year.
Even before becoming associated with MGM, the Kinahan gang has been using professional boxing fights in Dublin for crime summits.
Among those to voice fears about the links between gangsterism and professional boxing are former Olympic boxers Mick Dowling and Kenny Egan.
Both have questioned whether the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) should continue to rent its premises out for professional bouts.
"There haven't been any major incidents (at the National Stadium), but I would be surprised if they gave a licence to MGM again. I would be shocked," said Mr Dowling, who predicts a bleak future for professional boxing in Ireland if criminals continue to be involved.
"The vast, vast majority of boxing folk are good, decent, law-abiding people," he said.
"Those same people will shun going to the National Stadium for a professional show. People will still go to see the amateurs, but they shun the pro shows.
"It's an awful pity because there are a few good young Irish professional fighters. It is going to deny them an opportunity of boxing at home and certainly at the National Stadium in front of their own folks."
In a statement, the IABA ruled out any prospect of professional bouts no longer being staged at the stadium, but insisted that public safety was of paramount importance.
It said it would continue to liaise with the governing body for professional boxing and the gardaí to ensure safety, but stressed that the majority of spectators were friends and family of boxers and were considered low risk in terms of crowd control.