Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Sutherland an inspiration - O'Neill

Darren O'Neill, far right, insists Darren Sutherland will be on the minds of the Irish boxing team in London

Ireland boxing captain Darren O'Neill says the memory of tragic former middleweight rival Darren Sutherland will inspire the six-strong team to emulate Sutherland's Olympic heroics at the London Games.

Sutherland was found dead in his London flat just one year after returning from Beijing with a bronze medal, and the death of such a popular character continues to have a profound impact on the close-knit Irish boxing community.

O'Neill said: "Darren's death was devastating and it still lingers with us. We trained together many times and had some great fights. As far as we are concerned, Darren is still a major part of this team."

He added: "Before I had my fight to qualify for the Olympics, I said to Darren's former coach that Darren would be looking down on me today and I do feel that he's there. Darren is still an inspiration to all of us."

Having fought his way up through a successful junior career, O'Neill, a former under-21 All-Ireland-winning hurler with Kilkenny, found his route to senior glory blocked by both Sutherland and another Beijing medallist, Kenneth Egan.

When Sutherland was temporarily sidelined with an eye injury, O'Neill boiled down from light-heavyweight to take his place, and went on to establish himself at his new weight, culminating in a European silver medal in 2010.

It was a spectacular achievement for O'Neill, not least because of the calibre of opponents he had to beat in Moscow.

O'Neill defeated Anthony Ogogo 10-1 and Ukraine's then world number one Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

O'Neill added: "I have Darren and Ken to thank because when I saw them win medals in Beijing I thought, 'I can do this too'. When I beat Derevyanchenko, it was a real breakthrough fight for me."

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