MTK Irish Boycott Over? Mick Conlan’s Late Late Show appearance raises questions


The fact that Michael Conlan will appear on The Late Late Show tonight has people suggesting there may be a thawing of Mack The Knife Global‘s self-imposed exile from the Republic of Ireland.

Last February, citing an Irish Media ‘witch hunt’, the boxing management company founded by Irishmen and boasting over 30 Irish fighters within its stable elected to ban its boxers from talking to any Republic of Ireland media outlets and stated that they would no longer be looking to feature their stable on shows south of the border.

Additionally, the United Arab Emirates-based outfit claimed they would no longer be signing fighters from the Republic of Ireland – although it is assumed that this meant fighters based in the Republic of Ireland as Sydney-based quartet Gearoid Clancy, Danny Keating, TJ Doheny, and Darragh Foley have all signed since the declaration.

In a statement released via video and print, CEO and sole MTK Global shareholder Sandra Vaughan accused Irish media of vilifying MTK-signed fighters and called for #fairnews.

The Scottish fake tan saleswoman, who has since handed the reins to Bob Yalen, stated that “despite announcing MTK Global cutting all ties with Daniel Kinahan in February 2017, and announcing a full management buy-in by myself in October 2017, the Irish media have continued to vilify MTK Global in all and any mention of Irish boxing and MTK Global signed boxers.”

vaughan
Vaughan’s infamous statement

The ban didn’t extend to the Northern Irish or British Press, many of whom engage in the reporting for which Republic of Ireland media was boycotted, and they have had continued access to the MTK stable.

The partitionist nature of the move, in a famously all-Ireland sport, caused hurt among boxing writers and there are those, even outside of the media, that have argued the ban has begun to open a divide between a previously uniquely strong Irish boxing family.

MTK fighters from south of the border, such as upcoming world title challenger Jono Carroll, the widely popular Luke Keeler, and top prospect Gary Cully, have been especially hurt by not being able to talk to southern press which no doubt hurts their ticket-selling potential and profile.

Indeed, for people like Conlan – an Olympic hero, a star across the 32 counties, who is adamant he represents the whole of Ireland, and is a fighter most believed had big fight Dublin potential – access to Irish press looked vital.

Indeed, before turning pro, Dublin and not Belfast looked a likelier location for big cards for the Falls Road man who had become a regular on RTÉ screens during his final few years as an amateur but this was all shelved.

His career is still strongly followed outside of the North, but he has been denied the chance to continue to sell himself to the Irish casual by the media boycott.

Now with the news that 27-year-old world title hopeful appears on the Late Late Show tonight there have been some suggesting there is a thawing in regards to the non-relationship.

RTÉ confirmed the unbeaten featherweight, who next tops a Madison Square Garden Theatre card in New York on St Patrick’s Day, will appear alongside three other high-flying young Irish people on prime time TV.

A press release read “four of the country’s most successful young people will chat about life in your twenties in Ireland today. Michael Conlan, the former [sic] Irish Olympic boxer who recently won the first title of his professional career; Barry Keoghan, the Irish actor who is one of two Irish people to make the BAFTA Rising Star shortlist; Ellen Coyne, a Senior Journalist at The Times Ireland; and Rosie Connolly, one of Ireland’s leading fashion, beauty and lifestyle bloggers, will all be chatting about their lives and careers.”

Irish-Boxing.com hasn’t heard of any suggestions from involved parties on whether the ban will be lifted and it could be just prime time national TV coverage is too big for Conlan to turn down and another, increasingly regular, exception is being made.

In terms of reaching the casual and keeping your name relevant, The Late Late is the Holy Grail and there is no doubt it’s great publicity for the brother of world title challenger Jamie Conlan.

The ban, on occasion, has been broken with SportsJoe.ie conducting a big interview with Jono Carroll, Liverpool MMA star Darren Till doing an extended sit-down with Off The Ball, MMA Connect featuring the likes of Luke Keeler and Gary Cully and numerous cases of local radio or newspapers getting time with certain fighters – not to mention MTK Global itself responding to a query from the Irish Daily Star.

However, despite suggestions that some high-ranking MTK members were against and regret the move, privately-expressed discontent from particular fighters, and an indication that they were keen to run shows in Dublin again last summer, the ban remained in place and was reaffirmed in July when they blamed a lack of desire for co-operation from ‘Irish boxing stakeholders’.

Indeed, not only did MTK block their fighters from speaking to Irish media and refuse to accredit Irish media for the three MTK shows in Belfast last year, promoter Frank Warren, who works closely with the outfit, also blocked Irish media attendance at the three big Queensberry shows in the Titanic City in 2018 – including the first stadium show on the island in over two decades.

Carl Frampton knocked out Luke Jackson at Windsor Park in August
Carl Frampton knocked out Luke Jackson at Windsor Park in August

MTK’s actions over the past year have definitely damaged, perhaps irreparably for some, the outlook of many Irish media figures and outlets and whether they will be keen to resume covering and interviewing associated fighters if the boycott has indeed been lifted remains to be seen.

For what it is worth, this website will look to interview any and all MTK-managed Irish boxers if they are once again permitted to speak to us. We remain close to a large number of the stable, speaking regularly in a non-professional capacity.

If the ban is still in operation, and clarification is hoped for today, it will be intriguing to see the media reaction to RTÉ talking to an MTK fighter and not showing solidarity with its media brethren, with Conlan’s appearance already drawing attention.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an interesting few weeks.

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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com