Egan: I reached my lowest point after Darren died
Published 13/11/2011 | 05:00
Olympic medallist Kenny Egan has said he deeply regrets refusing to share a room with tragic boxer Darren Sutherland.
Egan was supposed to double up with Sutherland, who friends say was lonely and isolated before he committed suicide. But Egan says he couldn't handle Sutherland's obsession with boxing and physical fitness at a time when Egan was drinking heavily.
"If I close my eyes for just a second, it's like turning on a tap. A torrent of incidents come gushing forward that make me ashamed. And the first always involves Darren Sutherland," he says in his autobiography Kenny Egan: My Story.
"Me and Darren only ever shared a room together once in all the years we knew each other and that was enough. We were in Dagestan before the World Championships in Chicago in 2007 and I was stuck sharing a room with him. There was only a bedroom and a little sitting room. Darren was a terrible man for talking, he'd go for hours and it was all about boxing and fitness. No craic ever, just always focused on training and bouts.
"I woke up one morning to the sound of a skipping rope going at 4.30am. I thought I was dreaming but it kept on going and finally I got up and he was skipping away with his earphones in. He slept for four hours a night and then he'd come in and make loads of noise making his porridge.
"He'd bring all his own food because he was always on a strict diet. His body composition was so much muscle and so little fat that he'd always struggle to make the middleweight division, so he was meticulous regarding what he ate. But I was deadly serious when I told the coaches that never again was I to be put in a room with him. I couldn't handle all that."
Speaking about his last contact with Sutherland, who hanged himself in his UK flat, the Clondalkin man said: "I had spoken to Darren on Facebook about six weeks before he committed suicide and he said he was enjoying the training but it was lonely enough being a professional boxer. He wanted more fights, he wasn't getting them regularly, but he never mentioned being upset or being down on life. Neither did I," he said.
Egan, sober for 14 months now, spoke of how using Sutherland's funeral as an excuse to drink was his lowest point."I went back to a bar. In a sad way I was using it as an excuse to go drinking. I was telling myself that if I go out now, no one will mind because it's a funeral, a sad occasion. I can tell people I'm grieving and they will think it's understandable. That's as low as it gets after everything I'd been through with Darren.
"I was drinking for days after the news broke [and] I showed up at the funeral with these red eyes and a smell of booze coming from me. It was so sad but I was numb from the night before. There was a little altar at the edge of the grave for anyone who wanted to say a few words. His father Tony spoke first but not one person from the IABA (Irish Amateur Boxing Association) got up and said a thing.
"I was angry with them for never remembering a huge part of his life that day. At the end of it I walked up to his father Tony and he gave me a big hug. The first words out of his mouth while he was squeezing me were, 'don't ever go professional Kenneth'. It was heartbreaking and I was still shook from the drink."
This weekend the boxer said he is a "changed man" since his hell-raising days of hookers, threesomes and alcoholism, detailed in the book. And he said he is now settled with the woman who helped him on the road to recovery.
"I have been with Sharon almost two years now and all of what was mentioned in the book was a long time ago. We all have skeletons and a past and I am glad I was honest about mine but I am a changed man now..
"She pulled me out of a few pubs and introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous. She doesn't drink so that's a great help. Her and my mum and my brothers have kept me on the straight and narrow.
"And there's two big factors that keep me off the gargle. The first is the fear, both mentally and physically, and the destruction it causes in my life.
"And the second is that I want to show people it is possible to do it. I went public about my problem on Tand it was the best thing I ever did. I've told the whole country now and I don't want anyone to see me back on the drink. Once I stay away from that first pint then I'm okay, that's the main thing."