“I aim for the stars all the time. I want to win a world title”

DARREN SUTHERLAND has finally joined the professional ranks after signing a three-year contract with Frank Maloney, who promised yesterday that the 26-year-old Dubliner would become his fifth world champion.

Long before he qualified for the Olympic Games, Sutherland was expounding his passion for the paid ranks and when he won his Olympic bronze medal in Beijing he confirmed that it was his final appearance in the ring as an amateur.

Yesterday morning “The Dazzler” made the announcement at his alma mater, Dublin City University and he will return to the campus for his first fight which was been tentatively scheduled for the Helix on December 18.

The fact that Frank Maloney — the son of a Dublin mother and Tipperary father, had succeeded in securing one of the most wanted signatures in boxing was a surprise.

The three-year deal involved a six figure signing-on fee and is likely to earn Sutherland in excess of €2 million, provided the 26-year-old Dubliner can do the business in the ring.

But Sutherland insisted yesterday that money was not the deciding factor when it came his professional career .

“It has been an exhausting period for me,” he said. “I had offers from around the world. I had set out what I required from each. I put together a document and I had a very good team advising me — a number of them were staff from DCU who have been mentoring me — so I was quite lucky to have good people like that around me.

“My requirements were more about ambition — how they were going to get me to where I want to go — I aim for the stars all the time. I want to go on to win a world professional title and I wanted someone who could deliver their side if I do my part.

“I can honestly say the finances were not high on my list of priorities although it was important. It was not like who is paying the most money because, to be honest, there were higher figures on the table from other parties but this was about the whole package and I felt very much that Frank Maloney’s proposal ticked all of the boxes and I am very happy with my choice.

“The final important factor is to find the right trainer but Frank Maloney will have a say in that. He will put a number of trainers in front of me who I will work with and then I will select who I feel I gel with the best and we will decide how we go forward. That will take another couple of months to put that together but it is not something you want to rush because it is a very critical part of the whole jigsaw.

“In the meantime, for my pro debut, I will be training with St Saviours and I will be going over the London for professional sparring.

“I am very happy with everything I have achieved as an amateur. It’s been an up-and-down very interesting amateur career. I have experienced a lot and I would not change any of it — the good or the bad — because I feel it is what has got me to where I am today.

“To take part in the Olympics was the highlight of my career and what a way to kind of finish up, with an Olympic medal. There is no more I can do in the amateurs. I have reached the pinnacle of my amateur career and now I am well aware that it’s a tough road ahead of me.

The Olympic medal means nothing in a professional ring. It’s like starting out again.

“I’ll knuckle down, work hard and, step by step, get to where I want to go. Now I am fulfilling my childhood dreams. It has come at the perfect time. My age — I am quite experienced, I have a good head on my shoulders and I won’t be fazed by the changes in my life.

“I won’t let any of it change me. I know what I am here to do — maximise my potential, live my life with no regrets.”

Sutherland will make his paid debut at the 1,500-seater Sports Arena at Dublin City University where has been pursuing a degree in Sports Science on December 18 against an opponent yet to be named and the fight will be screened live on Sky Sports.

Frank Maloney, who took Lennox Lewis, Paul Ingle, Scott Harrison and David Haye to world titles, is fully convinced that Sutherland can become champion number five for him.

“From the minute I watched Darren in the Olympics he was the only fighter I wanted to sign,” he said.

“This is a long-term mission and will be an incredible journey. I invite the Irish public to join Darren on what will be a fantastic ride.

“On a personal level, I haven’t felt this excited since the day Lennox Lewis signed with me in April 1989,” said Maloney.

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