DARREN Sutherland was there when James DeGale got an introduction to the top level of amateur boxing and was present when ‘Chunky’ reached the top of the professional pile in America last month claims the World champion.
DeGale paid homage to one of the Stadium’s favourite sons after he claimed the vacant IBF super middleweight World title by beating Andre Dirrell in Boston late last month.
The 29 year old dedicated the victory to his former amateur rival directly after the win, but has since revealed the memory of the Olympic medal winner spurred him on to the historic win.
Speaking to Balls.ie the English super middleweight said he felt Sutherland was there with him when he buckled the strap around his waist.
“Of course he spurred me on. In my mind he was there with me when I won the World title. Obviously I had the initials on my shorts for a long time. A lot of people didn’t know that, but that was my little thing for him. Just to show my respect and when I won the World title he was winning his.”
Sutherland and DeGale enjoyed a somewhat high profile amateur rivalry. Their bouts were always an entertaining clash of styles, where more often than not explosive and more often than not won by the Irish puncher.
Indeed, DeGale lost one of his earliest Senior International to ‘Dazzler’ and recalls the introduction Sutherland gave him to elite amateur boxing.
“I remember when I first boxed Darren, I had just been put on the Senior great Britain squad. He was one of my first fights. The fight before that I had a good win against James McEwan and I boxed Darren in the final. Basically that fight was my introduction to Senior boxing. He was mature, big and strong and I lost the fight well.”
“I remember before the fight there was a bit of agro. We both gave each other stare outs and I lost that fight. It was a hard introduction and hard to take. Darren Sutherland was a fantastic, talented and strong fighter. He was muscular, he was athletic and he was strong. I remember that fight because he beat me and beat me well.”