Sutherland sets sights on Beijing

March 2008

Darren Sutherland claims to have put the agony of Pescara firmly behind him and is looking forward to this weekend’s Olympic Box-offs at the National Stadium.

The Dubliner was hoping to secure a place in this summer’s Games in Beijing via last month’s qualifying tournament in Italy.

However, Sutherland exited at the quarter-final stages after suffering a controversial one-point defeat to England’s James Degale (22-23) in a bout which it appeared that the Irishman had clearly won.

“I am not going to say I was robbed in Italy – others have said that – but I know I did not get a fair crack of the whip,” the talented middleweight is quoted as saying by The Irish Examiner.

“I was in there throwing the big shots, getting through with the punches but then it was the same old thing – my opponent was slapping with his punches, clearly not landing very many clean shots, and he was getting scores which left me playing catch-up.”

Sutherland is now facing the exciting prospect of another showdown with Darren O’Neill in Dublin this weekend, with a spot on the Irish team the final Olympic qualifier, in Athens in April, up for grabs.

Sutherland, who overcame O’Neill in the final of this year’s National Senior Championships, is supremely confident of victory because he feels that his failure to qualify for Beijing, either through last year’s World Championships in Chicago or the tournament in Pescara, has actually proven something of a blessing in disguise.

“Had I qualified for the Olympics last November there are a number of things I would not have addressed,” he explained.

“I can hold my hand on my heart right now and say I am better than I have ever been in my whole career.

“That is why I am looking forward to the box-offs at the weekend and from that point of view I am confident that I will be going to Athens on April 6 and, as far as I am concerned, all those fights I am having now are just preparation for the big event which is the Olympic Games.

“They way I look at I am potentially five fights away from Olympic qualification and I hope to do some damage when I get to Beijing.”

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