12 February 2009 – By Jonny Stapleton
Olympic bronze medalist Darren Sutherland is living the professional boxing dream.
But as he prepares for just his second bout in the paid ranks he claims there is a part of him wishing he was competing in the ongoing Irish Amateur Championships.
The former St Saviours amateur was the only one of the famous Olympic boxing five to turn professional and as a result will not compete in the most high profile amateur championship of recent times. Sutherland certainly has no regrets about a decision that was made even before Beijing 2008, but did state part of him wishes he was defending his Irish Amateur crown this month.
The likeable puncher, who dispatched Georgi Iliev in the first round of his paid debut and is being touted as a potential World Champion, has tipped the man he beat in the previous three middleweight finals, Darren O’Neill to replace him as 75kg Champion, and also backed former sparring partner Kenny Egan to go on and make Irish boxing history.
“It feels weird knowing the amateurs are going on and I am not a part of them. There is a part of me wanting to defend my title. I liked being Irish Champion. But obviously my goals have changed, and its pro titles I am now aiming for.
“I think that Darren O’Neill will be huge favourite for the 75kg Title, he said. It all depends on how comfortable he is at the weight. I hope Kenny can win his ninth Irish title. That will be a phenomenal achievement, were he to do that. There are a lot of young guns on the way up looking to challenge our current champions. So they will have to be at the top of their games to fend off competition. I wish all my team mates the best.”
While his former Amateur team mates are preparing for their respective semi finals this weekend Sutherland is readying himself for his second professional bout.
The former DCU student will fight on the undercard of Irish light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore’s European title showdown with Michele Piccirillo in Wigan on March 6. And despite being in the early stages his transition from amateur to professional he is confident preparations are going well and he is adapting to life in the paid ranks. He also stressed he there is less pressure on him as the upcoming fight is in Wigan and not his hometown.
“Training is going really well. I am enjoying the whole pro experience and feel that it suits me down to the ground. Brian Lawrence is a very good trainer and is helping me hone my skills as a professional. I am still getting to grips with the longer rounds and workload that goes with being a professional. I am getting in quality sparring with experienced pros and more than holding my own,” he added.
“I feel more confident ahead of my next fight as I have had more time to prepare. Also the fact that it is in Wigan, means that the pressure is off. I had a lot to contend with on my home debut in Dublin at Christmas. Not only was it my first pro fight, but also it was a case of all eyes on me after the Olympics. There were big expectations to live up to.”