Boxing manager Frank Maloney was being treated for a suspected heart attack today after finding one of the sport’s most promising young fighters hanged in his flat.
Olympic bronze medallist Darren Sutherland, 27, was found yesterday by his manager Maloney, 55, who was then taken to hospital for tests.
Today Sutherland’s friend and one of Britain’s top young boxers, Tony Jeffries, called the past 24 hours “a nightmare day”.
The 24-year-old said: “Frank was really close to Darren. He was not just his promoter or his manager – he was a good friend. It was special and they were close.
“Frank’s family were also close to Darren so I cannot imagine what it was like for Frank to find him.
“I am just so sorry. Frank is a great man and one of the best promoters. I just hope he recovers well and gets better soon.”
Maloney’s website has a front-page tribute to Sutherland, calling him “the Olympic bronze medallist with a golden heart”.
Jeffries added: “His death is a massive shock and I think it is a massive loss to the sport. He was a great athlete and talent.
“The thing about Darren is that he never had a bad word to say about anyone.”
Maloney was taken to hospital after finding Sutherland, nicknamed The Dazzler, yesterday at his flat in Bromley, south London.
Tests showed Maloney had recently suffered a heart attack. Doctors at Bromley’s Princess Royal University Hospital decided to keep him under observation, although he was well enough to sit up and work on his laptop, his spokesman said.
Irish fighter Sutherland won his four professional fights as a super-middleweight.
Britain’s James DeGale, who beat Sutherland in the Olympic semi-finals before going on to win gold, described him as “an excellent fighter” and “a gentleman”, while Dominic O’Rourke, president of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, said the Dubliner had been “a star of the show” in Beijing.
O’Rourke said that Sutherland’s death had devastated the fighters he grew up with in the domestic ranks.
“They’re all in desperate shock,” he said. “I’m totally shocked, it’s unbelievable and it’s a tragedy for all concerned.
“His family must be devastated, and our condolences go to them.
“He was such a popular young lad within the association. He talked to all the kids and they all loved him.
“He always believed he would qualify for the Olympics and would win a medal, and he achieved it. He was a star of the show.
“From a young age he thought he would be world champion.
“After the Olympics we hoped he would stay on in the amateurs but he said he had done what he’d done for the amateurs and wanted to go professional.”
Reflecting on the events of yesterday, O’Rourke said: “When I heard of his death I found it hard to believe.
“I thought it must be a mistake, but after a few calls I realised it was right.”
Former Great Britain head coach Terry Edwards believes boxing has lost one of its best prospects following Sutherland’s death.
Sutherland had won the first four fights of his professional career.
Edwards was in DeGale’s corner when the British fighter scored his Olympic win over the Irishman.
And he said he was impressed by Sutherland’s attitude, as well as his boxing.
Edwards said: “He was such a respectful guy outside the ring. He had a great rivalry with James (DeGale).
“I never heard any bad words between them. When he lost to James in the Olympic semi-final he came straight over to the corner and shook our hands and told us we’d got our tactics right, and that was the mark of the man.
“He was a very likeable lad and a total professional. He had a good pro style and I’m sure he would have gone all the way.
“It’s such a tragedy – the world was his oyster.”
DeGale said: “It is very, very sad news – I just can’t believe it.
“It is a tragedy. First and foremost, my heart goes out to his family.
“My heart went to the floor when I heard.
“He was a big part of my Olympic medal journey, and it is just terrible. I just do not know what to say except that he was a brilliant fighter, in fact an excellent fighter, and he was a gentleman outside the ring as well.
“He had an Olympic bronze medal and his whole life to look forward to. He had a great future and my heart goes out to everyone who knew him.”
Irish boxing legend Barry McGuigan, the former world featherweight champion, believes Sutherland had the talent to go all the way to the top.
McGuigan said: “I am deeply shocked and deeply saddened by this news and my heart goes out to Darren’s family. It is an absolute tragedy. I would describe Darren as a phenomenal talent.
“He represented his country with pride as an amateur and I believe he would have become a world champion in the professional ranks one day.”