THE TRAGEDY OF DARREN SUTHERLAND



On September 14th 2009, Frank Maloney said what he had witnessed in Sutherland’s apartment would remain with him for the rest of his life.

Some deaths hit you. The type of death that you always remember where you were. I have had a few of those and the day Darren Sutherland died I was confused. It seemed to make no sense as to why a young boxer with such potential would choose to end his life.

It was the first time in my life I can recall a sportsman taking his own life. Sportsmen were superheroes in my eyes; the dream. The suicide of Sutherland rocked me, as I scrambled to confirm the news, showing me that sportsmen were not invincible.

Britain currently dominates the super-middleweight division. George Groves, James DeGale and Callum Smith were all highly decorated amateurs whilst John Ryder, Rocky Fielding and Chris Eubank Jr have excelled as professionals. Unfortunately, there is one name missing. Darren Sutherland was arguably the greatest prospect of all, another high-class amateur who looked like he had adjusted incredibly to the professional ranks. His dream was always to become the first black Irish World Champion. Dreams are hard to reach though and for some, the idea of missing that dream is world ending.

Born in Dublin to a West-Indian father and Irish mother, he would spend time as a child in England, Saint Vincent and Ireland. When he was seven his Mother called time on his boxing career after an exhibition bout left him with a nosebleed. It kept him away for eight years before he returned to St Brigid’s boxing gym.

Six months later, he headed to Brendan Ingle’s gym in Sheffield. He spent three years there but fell out of love with boxing. After his three years with Ingle, he returned to Ireland to study and resume boxing. Ireland was growing a strong cadre of fighters; he lost to John Duddy and Andy Lee in amateur finals. When boxing for the Irish national team, a freak injury almost cost Sutherland the sport when the thumb of Russian B squad member, Dannil Shved, fractured Sutherland's eye socket in two places. He required a plate in his eye, which he fretted would cause him to look cross-eyed. Looking at a life without boxing, he fell into depression.


Throughout his career he was referenced as someone who would be a better professional than an amateur. His punches were naturally heavy-handed; they all seemed to land with a real thud. Most of his work began with the jab, another punch he landed with real force.

Although he could box, he preferred to mix it up on the inside, Sutherland himself proclaimed,

“I’m just a nice lad who fancies a scrap now and again.”

He picked his shots well, with all the punches in his repertoire. His natural charisma and affable nature would surely have led to him being a popular figure. The big fights were clearly there to be set up, the James DeGale bout was an obvious headliner that would have made a lot of money in both Ireland and England.

Six months after the damage to his eye, Sutherland was told he could resume boxing, where he would return to familiar winning ways. He won three national titles, the final one in a riveting bout in 2008 against Darren O’Neil, captain of the 2012 Irish boxing team,

Sutherland battled the jeers of the crowd and when he was announced as the winner strutted around declaring he 'was the champion'. It was part of the charisma that made people so sure he would be a success at the professional level. He became the European Champion in 2007 thanks to 23-19 victory in the final over James DeGale. He would repeat the feat a year later, extending his winning margin to six points.

According to Billy Walsh, he had been unsure of joining the High-Performance Unit, but after an assessment he believed he could benefit from the improved level of training. He was different from his teammates, with an energy that wore them out. Billy Walsh also spoke of texting him every day whilst he was on the team, however the close relationship was not a guarantee at the professional level.

As an amateur, the main event is always the Olympics. After no medals for 16 years, thanks to Sutherland, the Irish boxing team was resurgent. A bye in the first round saw him make his way to a clash with Alegerian, Nabil Kessel. He was three points down in the opening minute, but his left hook began to land and after four standing counts the fight was stopped.

He then routed Alfonso Blanco in a patient manner that belied his naturally aggressive style. In the semi-final he would come up against James DeGale, his old British rival who he had won four out of five. DeGale would turn the tables, winning 10-3 before going on to win the gold medal. Billy Walsh believed he settled for the bronze. Sutherland was favourite heading into the fight and many were baffled when he chose to sit back and let DeGale fire off. This left Sutherland with a bronze, adding to the silver of Kenny Egan and the bronze of Paddy Barnes. Contrary to the frustration of Paddy Barnes, Sutherland had a booming smile on his face after winning bronze.