Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Black Irish: Boxing Great Darren Sutherland (1982-2009)

Darren Sutherland

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Olympic Bronze Medallist Darren Sutherland Found Hanged

• It Is A Tragedy For Ireland, Says Frank Maloney
• Police Not Treating Death As Suspicious

* Kevin Mitchell
* The Guardian, Tuesday 15 September 2009

Ireland's Darren John Sutherland in happier times after beating Venezuela's Alfonso Blanco Parra during their 2008 Olympic Games quarter-final. Photograph: Jaques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images

Darren Sutherland, the Irishman who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics and had made a promising start as a professional, has been found dead, hanged at his flat in Bromley, south London. He was 27.

His promoter, Frank Maloney, discovered the fighter's body yesterday afternoon. "It is very sad and unexpected," Maloney said, while asking the media to respect the privacy of Sutherland's family. "It is a tragedy for Ireland and the world of boxing." The fighter was declared dead just after 3pm. Police are not treating his death as suspicious.

At the Olympics last year, Sutherland lost to Britain's James DeGale, who went on to win gold in the middleweight division. Both moved up to super-middleweight when they returned and it seemed certain they would meet as professionals one day, possibly for a world title. Maloney said of Sutherland after he made his paid debut with an impressive knockout win in Dublin last December: "I think we've found a real superstar here tonight and this is just the start of a long journey."

In an interview at the time, Sutherland said: "I'm a hard puncher, I think I'm an exciting fighter, I love what I do. When I get into the fight, I do like to entertain the crowd as well. It all depends on how good my opponent is. If he brings it to me, I'll bring it to him."

He was as good as his word in the four professional fights he had, all of them ending in stoppage wins. Unusually for a novice pro, all were scheduled for six rounds rather than four, as Sutherland sought to leave behind the frantic pace of the amateur game. "I want to hit the ground running," he said, "Let's get straight into it."

Sutherland called himself "The Dazzler" but, away from the ring, he was an unassuming, well-liked athlete. He left school in Dublin when he was 15 to train at Brendan Ingle's gym in Sheffield but resisted several offers to turn professional as he pursued his ambition of winning Olympic gold. At 20, he went back to Ireland to sit his Leaving Certificate in Dunboyne, studying alongside 17-year-olds.

Sutherland overcame a serious eye injury and won All-Ireland titles at middleweight from 2006 to 2008. He was considered one of the most accomplished amateurs in the world.

DeGale spoke of his shock at the Irishman's death. "It is very, very sad news - I just can't believe it," he said. "It is a tragedy. First and foremost, my heart goes out to his family. I just could not believe it; my heart went to the floor when I heard.

"He was a big part of my Olympic medal journey and it is just terrible. I just do not know what to say except that he was a brilliant fighter, in fact an excellent fighter, and he was a gentleman outside the ring as well. He had an Olympic bronze medal and his whole life to look forward to. He had a great future, and my heart goes out to everyone who knew him."

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