14 September 2009 – By Mark Doyle
Olympic hero Darren Sutherland has been found dead at his home in Bromley, London.
Sutherland’s manager, Frank Maloney, made the tragic discovery on Monday afternoon and the 27-year-old Irishman was pronounced dead just after 3pm. Police have confirmed that they are not treating the death as suspicious.
Maloney, who was taken to hospital to be treated for shock, later released a statement, commenting: “It is very sad and unexpected. At this sad time my thoughts are with Darren’s family and I hope their privacy at this very difficult time will be respected by the media.
“It is a tragedy for Ireland and the world of boxing.”
Sutherland won middleweight bronze in last years Beijing Games before moving to England after signing professional terms with Maloney.
‘Dazzler’ won his first four bouts and had been scheduled to make his fifth outing in the paid ranks on a Tony Jeffries-headlined bill in Sunderland on October 16.
Martin Cullen TD, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, was quick to pay tribute to Sutherland for the class he displayed in abundance both in and other of the ring.
“I was very saddened to hear of the death of boxer Darren Sutherland and offer my deepest condolences to his family,” he said in a statement released on Monday night.
“The death of Darren is a great personal loss to them and to his many friends. The tremendous effort and determination of this young man brought immense pride to Ireland in Beijing in 2008 when he joined a very select group of men who have won an Olympic medal for Ireland. It takes work, effort, desire and dedication to be a champion qualities Darren had in abundance. He later met the challenge of turning professional with great enthusiasm.
“Ireland has lost a sportsman of wonderful ability, a clever and popular man with a future of real potential. His early death deprives us of a magnificent talent. May he rest in peace.”
Sutherland’s former amateur team-mate and middleweight rival, Darren O’Neill, spoke of his devastation at the loss of a ‘close friend’.
“We are all devastated,” he was quoted as saying by the Irish Examiner. “Shocked. I just dont have the words to express my feelings right now.
“I know everyone will look back at the great rivalry that was between us. We were great rivals we were also very close friends. We travelled on the same teams.
“We trained and sparred each other in the same gym. There is that bond between boxers that you dont find in any other sport.
“Outside of the ring he was such a nice guy. Those of us who knew him knew what he was really like.
“Some people would regard him as being arrogant but it was not arrogance. He just had that confidence in himself and in his own ability and he went about his business in a professional way.
“It is just so disappointing because he had such a great future ahead of him. He was such an ambitious guy and he had accomplished so much in what has turned out to be such a short career. He was so energetic and so full of life, you got a great buzz of him.
“This is heartbreaking for us all and my sympathy goes out to his family who were so supportive of him and all those in High Performance who were so close to him.”
Dominic ORourke, President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, admitted that he had been left dumbstruck by the news.
“We just dont know how to get our heads around it,” he said. “Darren was so full of life larger than life he was great company and he could talk for Ireland as well as box for Ireland and his infectious personality set him apart.
“He won worldwide admiration inside and outside the ring and that was brought home to me tonight with the number of calls I have had from all over Britain and all over Europe. The phone has not stopped ringing.
“My immediate memory of him was when we visited the hospital after the Olympics and how the kids took to him and the manner in which he was able to relate to him. He was so patient with them.
“Tonight my thoughts and my sympathy and my prayers go out to his family. They must be devastated at the loss of such a fine son.”