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‘Only the forgotten are truly dead’ – Darren Sutherland 14 years gone today

If ‘only the forgotten are truly dead’ we are sure today will prove Darren Sutherland lives on.

If not here in person to inject energy into rooms or brighten up days with that dazzling ‘Dazzler’ smile, Sutherland lives on in people’s memories.

People across the country and indeed the boxing world will reflect fondly upon their favourite memories of a fighter who had the potential to be an in the ring great, but proved himself a great man before a much too premature passing.

His name will populate social media news feeds as boxers and fans pay tribute to the much loved star – and our thoughts are with his family who will mark the occasion with sadness and in private.

With so many tributes being paid there is no doubt Senior title successes will be brought up, as will his Olympic glory and his great amateur rivalries with one James DeGale.

People will reflect on his entertaining, powerful and all-action style – and will reference how it was an approach that would have ensured not only pro success, but stardom.

Questions with regard to how decorated his waistline would have been if he had competed over the last decade will be asked and imaginations will have a trophy cabinet glistening with all kinds of honours.

However, personally, what makes Sutherland such a missed Irish sports star is the fact he was much more than a sports star.

Working within boxing over the last 19 years, something different happens when the former DCU student’s name is mentioned.

It was surprising at first, but it eventually became the norm – the mention of the name Sutherland isn’t followed by people ruing what might have been career-wise. Very rarely do people instantly mention what he could have achieved as a pro, similarly his ring talent isn’t the first port of conversation call.

In fact, people don’t mourn Darren Sutherland the boxer, they mourn Darren Sutherland the man.

More often than not a wry smile breaks out beneath sad eyes as people remember particular personal dealings they had with a kind soul.

That’s the thing, everyone has their own personal Sutherland tale and while it may have played out in the gym or around boxing, it’s beyond being boxing related.

Acts of kindness are often raised, moments of laughter, mischievousness, music, fun, vibrant energy and again the smile- are the main plots of stories you will be told once you mention his name.

It’s a unique scenario and while determination and dedication are regularly raised people often recall the personality, the fighting spirit out of the ring, the kind nature and the love of fun ahead of any sporting achievements.

In that regard, whilst today may be a sad one, the memories are good and whilst we hold them and share them Sutherland will live on just like he lived, bringing smiles to people’s faces.

If you want to take a walk down memory lane with regard to Sutherland click HERE for our backlog of stories on the much missed fighter.

Below you can read the article this site published remembering Darren Sutherland. 

14 September 2009 – By Mark Doyle

It is difficult to know where to begin when it comes to articulating a response to the news of Darren Sutherland’s death on Monday afternoon. Tragic. Shocking. Devastating. Somehow those words just don’t seem to adequately convey the overwhelming sense of loss.

I had the pleasure of twice interviewing Darren one on one. The first time was back in January, 2008. He had just returned to his dressing room after winning his third successive Irish Senior title by impressively outpointing Darren ONeill, with whom he enjoyed an enthralling rivalry but also a close friendship.

Dazzler, as he was affectionately known, was still buzzing and was only too happy to talk. He couldn’t stop smiling either. This was hardly surprising, of course. Anyone I’ve ever spoken to about Sutherland has immediately brought up his warm, bubbly and engaging personality. And that smile.

His enthusiasm on this occasion was slightly surprising in light of the fact that his post-fight interview had not been well-received by the fans in attendance. They had thought him arrogant. It was a common misconception among the Irish public that Sutherland was brash and cocky – he was anything but. That night he spoke of his admiration for O’Neill both as fighter and a person. He was upset that people might have thought that his comments had been disrespectful to his Irish colleague but he knew that O’Neill would take no offence as they were good friends. So there was no removing that smile from his face.

He was beaming again the next time we spoke, too. Ten months on from his Irish Senior title success and Sutherland’s world had changed dramatically. In the interim, the St. Saviours fighter had won an Olympic bronze medal for his country in the Olympic Games in Beijing before deciding to turn professional.

His entry into the paid ranks came as no surprise, of course. His aggressive, heavy-hitting style was not best suited to computer scoring and besides, the pro game always represented unfinished business for Sutherland.

As a youngster he had trained in Brendan Ingles gym in Sheffield but became disillusioned with the sport and decided to walk away.

Happily, he returned to the ring whilst studying at Dublin City University. Such was his dedication that he would often rise at 3am to ensure a successful balance between his sports science degree and his boxing.

All the way through his hugely successful amateur career, though, he talked of returning to the professional game at some point. He knew after winning bronze in Beijing that it was a case of now or never so, after careful consideration of the many offers on the table, he signed a three-year deal with top British promoter Frank Maloney.

His first outing as a pro was to be at DCU and it was there that I got to interview him for a second time. The Sky cameras were present and he was a man in demand. Everyone wanted a piece of him and he must have done at least ten one-on-ones but he never grew irritable and apologised profusely for making me wait when we eventually got to talk.

He was smiling from ear to ear as he talked excitedly about embarking on a new chapter in his life and of his pride that his pro debut was to take place in front of so many of his family and friends. He was disappointed at having to take an extended break from his studies but was adamant that he would return to the course one day.

Darren was intent on doing whatever it took to become Irelands next world champion and for him that meant making sacrifices. It meant basing himself in London and perhaps, in hindsight, that was a mistake.

While Sutherland understandably thought that a life without outside distractions would aid his drive to reach the summit of the super-middleweight division, perhaps in moving across the Irish Sea all he did was cut himself off from his support base, inadvertently isolate himself from the family and friends who had played such a key role in his amateur career.

He clearly developed a strong bond with Maloney, who welcomed his latest boxing protege into his family home while the Irishman looked for a place of his own. Sutherland moved out earlier this year and maybe if he had stayed put, things would have turned out differently; maybe he wouldnt have felt so alone.

Sadly, there is now no point speculating on what might have been done to save Darren Sutherland. Perhaps nothing could have been done. Perhaps he was always fighting inner demons. Perhaps his greatest opponent was himself and one he was always destined to succumb to.

We will probably never know the truth, never know what was going through his mind, never know how a person who was so outwardly happy could be so desperately unhappy on the inside, never know why he felt that there was nobody who could help him, never know what made him feel that there was no other way out.

All we can say with any degree of certainty is that on Monday, September 14 an immensely likeable, intelligent and good-natured 27-year-old, who had already achieved so much in his life and appeared destined to achieve so much more, decided that he could not go on.

Ireland has lost one of its true sporting heroes but, more tragically, a mother and father have lost a son, and two sisters have lost a brother. It is with them that are thoughts should be at this moment in time.

Darren Sutherland: R.I.P. (1982-2009)

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 sports for a living for over 20 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