20 August 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Ireland was guaranteed its third Olympic medal of the Beijing Games after middleweight Darren Sutherland produced the performance of his life to destroy world number two Alfonso Blanco Parra 11-1 at the Workers Gymnasium on Wednesday.
Facing an opponent who had defeated him 20-13 in last years World Championships, Sutherland dominated from start to finish, winning every single round on his way through to the semi-finals.
It was a flawless performance from the Dubliner. Blanco, a silver medallist in Chicago, threw a plethora of punches in the opening minute of the bout but not one managed to penetrate Sutherland’s guard.
Indeed, from a defensive viewpoint, Sutherland was simply incredible. There was no traces of the recklessness and carlessness which has blighted some of his previous displays at this level. He had a game plan and he stook rigidly to it.
It paid off handsomely, too, with Sutherland opening up a three-point lead by the end of the first round after repeatedly blocking Blanco’s punches with his arms before unleashing his left hand to devastating effect.
Blanco appeared stunned by his inability to breakthrough Sutherlands guard. He did manage one point midway through the second round but that turned out to be the only point he managed during the entire contest.
Sutherland just could not, would not be dissuaded from continuing with the game plan, merely content to press forward, fend off Blanco’s best shots and then let his left hand go when his frustrated South American foe almost inevitably left his chin exposed.
The Irishman had 6-1 up by the halfway stage and the only concern at this point was whether Blancos power might eventually wear the Irishman down, or at least force an opening which might afford him an opportunity to turn the fight around with a haymaker.
However, Sutherland just did not relent and some more expertly-timed lefts saw him end the third eight points clear.
The game was up for Blanco. The Venezuelan had already appeared resigned to his fate as he sat on his stool after the second, so, by the third, he cut a horribly disinterested figure as his cornermen tried to rally him.
He did at least come out for the fourth but he need not have bothered, as he remained completely incapable of troubling Sutherland, who added two more points to his tally as he joined team-mates Kenny Egan and Paddy Barnes in the semi-finals of the Olympics.
Sutherland will now face bitter rival James DeGale, whom he has defeated in four of their five previous meetings, for a place in this weekend’s middleweight final.