The boxer Billy Joe Saunders has challenged a journalist to “write something positive about Daniel Kinahan” in exchange for being granted a face-to-face interview with the suspected Irish crime boss.

Nicola Tallant, who is investigations editor with the Irish Sunday World newspaper, has divulged a series of direct messages sent to her on Twitter by Saunders, in which the WBO super-middleweight title holder asked if she would like to fly to Dubai for a meeting with Kinahan.

Alternatively, Saunders suggested setting up a Zoom call between the reporter and his friend and adviser, even going so far as to offer to “set you up on a date as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner”.

The subject of a recent BBC Panorama investigation entitled Boxing and the Mob, in which Tallant featured as a guest contributor, Kinahan is the founder of the MTK Global boxing management company that includes Saunders and Tyson Fury among a stable of fighters numbering up to 250.

In 2017 it was announced he would be standing down from his role as head of the organisation but he has been named by Fury as being instrumental in brokering a deal to fight Anthony Joshua in an eagerly anticipated world heavyweight unification showdown expected to take place later this year.

Earlier this week, Kinahan released a statement in which he claimed he is “involved in planning multiple record-breaking and exciting world title fights”.

In 2018, Kinahan was named by an Irish High Court judge as the leader of an organised crime group set up by his father Christy Kinahan Sr, which is claimed to be involved in drugs trafficking and weapons smuggling on a global scale. The Dubliner has repeatedly insisted he has no criminal convictions and emphatically denies any involvement in organised crime. Known in Ireland as The Cartel, the Kinahan gang has been linked to 18 gangland murders and is reported to have amassed a fortune worth up to £1bn.

Currently in training for his scheduled world title fight against Saul “Canelo” Álvarez on 8 May, Saunders has been vocal in his support of Kinahan, his friend and adviser, on social media since the Panorama documentary was aired.

In the immediate aftermath of the broadcast he launched what appeared to be extremely personal attacks on Barry McGuigan, one of few people in the boxing business to speak out against Kinahan, and made light of threats made against those involved in the making of the documentary.

Earlier this week, Saunders’ promoter, Eddie Hearn, urged him to quit the platform before he does his career irreparable harm. “I think Billy should just delete social media really. It’s difficult because I think sometimes, and he’s brought a lot of it on himself, he’s portrayed a certain way and that doesn’t help him,” he said. “He also finds it difficult to express his feelings and what he means when he’s trying to justify himself.”

Daniel Kinahan was instrumental in brokering a deal for Tyson Fury to fight Anthony Joshua. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA

On Sunday afternoon, Saunders sent Tallant a private direct message on Twitter asking if she would like to fly to Dubai and meet Kinahan for an interview. “Would you like to fly over and see Danul [sic] Kinahan face to face interview,” he wrote. “Or I could set you up a zoom call or I could even set you up on a date as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Serious offer.”

While Tallant declined the opportunity of “flying out to the belly of the beast” for a chat with a man whose associates she says have threatened her in the past, she expressed her interest in a Zoom call instead. She also suggested a podcast interview to be broadcast before anything was written, which would “eliminate the interpretation of the interview”.

The following day, Kinahan sent a written statement to Talksport which was recorded and read out by a member of staff at the radio station. Widely criticised for being self-serving and misleading, Kinahan used it to portray himself as a working class Dubliner done good, reiterated that he was not involved in gangland activities and had never been convicted of any crime. He also insisted he was still a major player in the organisation of major, high-profile boxing bouts.

Soon after the statement was read out on Talksport, Tallant received two more messages from Saunders in which the boxer denied he had mocked Barry McGuigan over the death in 2019 of his daughter Danika and said he could arrange a big “scope” [sic] for the journalist “very easily” if she first wrote “something anything at all positive” about Kinahan.

“I’m not asking you to be his best friend,” he wrote. “But I’m sure you have heard a lot of good about Daniel and it wouldn’t hurt to publish it and if you do I think it’s fair to say you deserve the zoom call and I would love to set it up with you as I think you are a very intelligent woman”.

Tallant replied, politely declining the offer. “I won’t be doing that,” she wrote. “Not interested in being directed. So you have a nice day too.”