Friday 23 June 2017

Father of tragic Darren rejects tearful 'sorry' from promoter

Shane Hickey in London

THE father of Darren Sutherland has dismissed an offer by the late boxer's promoter to meet the family as "too little, too late".

At an emotionally charged inquest yesterday, promoter Frank Maloney broke down in tears and said he was very sorry for what had happened to the Sutherlands' son.

The high-profile boxing promoter claimed that he had been branded a "monster" during the hearing.

The inquest had earlier heard that notes were found in Darren Sutherland's apartment, which suggested that he was afraid Mr Maloney would "destroy" him if he broke a contract.

The boxer was found hanged in his flat in south London on September 14, 2009, after complaining of fears for his future in the previous weeks. It was less than a year since he had turned professional.

Mr Maloney found the body and said that image would "live with me forever".

He told Croydon Coroner's Court in London yesterday that Mr Sutherland had talked about being unsure of whether he wanted to stay in boxing.

The promoter, who has managed boxers including Nigel Benn and Lennox Lewis, told him he would not be able to walk out on their contract. But he denied putting Mr Sutherland under any pressure.

The court had previously heard how Mr Sutherland had told a friend he was afraid of what Mr Maloney would do if he quit. But Mr Maloney said the boxer had no reason to be frightened.

He told the court: "I know what I said, 'If you want to get out of the contract, let the lawyers deal with it'. I have a reputation to think about.

"I have been painted as a monster," he said, holding up a copy of a local newspaper with a report about the inquest on the front page.

"Why did this young man do this? He had a talent," said Mr Maloney, before he put his head on the bench and cried.

He addressed parents Tony and Linda Sutherland, who were sitting a few feet away in the court, and said he was "very sorry" for what happened to their son. Tony Sutherland replied: "It is a little late now."

When Mr Maloney said he wanted to sit down with the family and sort out their issues, Tony Sutherland dismissed this as "too little, too late".

Coroner Dr Roy Palmer recorded an open verdict, saying there were sufficient doubts not to record one of suicide.

He said the young boxer had died as a result of asphyxia by the suspension to his neck.

Dr Palmer said among the words he picked up describing Darren Sutherland during the inquest were "happy", "always smiling", "nice guy", "worrier", "lonely" and "anxious".

He said the boxer had been distressed before his death. He commiserated with the Sutherland family and told them they should be proud of their son.

The family embraced when the verdict was announced.

Verdict

Afterwards, in a statement through their solicitor, they said Darren's death had been tragic for "the family, for Ireland and for the boxing world".

They said they would hold his memory dear and try to remember how he lived, rather than how he died.

"If anything is to be learned from the tragedy of Darren's death, it should be that the support mechanisms that exist for amateur boxers should also be there for them when they begin their lonely path on the journey to professional life," the statement added.

Mr Maloney said outside court he believed his team had done a good job looking after the boxer and he was pleased that the family had got the open verdict they had wanted.

He continued: "The problem is that some amateur boxers do not realise that the transition to a professional life is a completely different world. It is only very few that can make big money. Darren Sutherland had the talent to do it."

He added: "I will never speak about Darren Sutherland again. I will always remember him but I will not speak about him."

Irish Independent

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