Boxing promoter Frank Maloney broke down in tears as he said he had no idea why Irish Olympic medallist Darren Sutherland would have been frightened of him.
Mr Maloney told an inquest that he had been painted as a monster during the hearing at Croydon Coroner’s Court into the death of the bronze medallist boxer.
Mr Sutherland, 27, was found dead at his home in Bromley, Kent, on Sept 14, 2009, by Mr Maloney, who represented him and who had become concerned for his welfare when he failed to answer his phone.
The Irishman, who turned professional after winning bronze at the 2008 Beijing games, had been in turmoil over what would happen to him if he was to give up boxing, the court was told.
The inquest heard Mr Sutherland was an intelligent, friendly man who was focused on his career but who always wanted reassurance.
Mr Maloney told the court he received a phonecall while he was on holiday in Portugal from Mr Sutherland’s physiologist, who said he was concerned about the boxer.
Maloney later received a call from Mr Sutherland’s trainer, Bryan Lawrence, who told him the boxer had been at the gym and told him he did not want to box anymore.
The court was told Mr Sutherland was worried about becoming poor and losing his flat and his car if he was to give up boxing.
The inquest was told Mr Sutherland’s friend and adviser, Declan Brennan, had told Mr Maloney the boxer felt like he was being pressured into boxing, and that if he did not box would have no money.
Mr Maloney said he had told Mr Sutherland he would not let him walk away with the £75,000 (€90,000) contract he had signed but that he could keep the purses for the fights which had already taken place.
He said: “He said he would be poor. I said that was his problem.”
Coroner Dr Roy Palmer asked Mr Maloney whether there was any reason why Mr Sutherland would be frightened of him, to which Mr Maloney replied no.
He asked whether Mr Maloney had seen any notes at Mr Sutherland’s flat claiming the promoter would destroy him and his family for the rest of his life.
Mr Maloney said: “Why would I say something like that. I am a professional sports manager. I have my own reputation to think about.”
Dr Palmer recorded an open verdict but said sufficient doubt in his mind meant he would not be returning a verdict of suicide.
Following the inquest, Mr Sutherland’s family said they had felt duty-bound to investigate the circumstances of their son’s death.
Solicitor James Evans, reading a statement on their behalf, said: “Darren’s death was indeed tragic for the family, for Ireland and the boxing world.
“The family lost a son and a brother so full of life who has been described by witnesses this week as a gentleman, well-mannered, intelligent and sensitive.
“He was an ambassador for good for Ireland, an Olympian and a young man whose future would have been, as Darren said himself, ‘so bright’.”
Mr Evans said the family hoped that all young sportsmen and women who make the transition from amateur to professional status surrounded themselves with people they could trust and rely on, particularly during this Olympic year.