Page last updated at 13:43 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 14:43 UK

Tragic Irish boxer is buried

Darren Sutherland
Darren Sutherland turned professional after last year's Olympics

Irish Olympic boxer Darren Sutherland was remembered on Monday not only as a sporting hero but as a kind and generous family man.

Hundreds of people gathered for the funeral in the Irish Republic of the 27-year-old fighter who was found hanged in his London flat a week ago.

Father Declan Hurley told mourners his family would willingly swap all his success to have him back.

A terrible darkness had fallen on the Sutherland home, he said.

"Nobody is more proud of Darren's achievements than his family," Fr Hurley told mourners at St Mary's Church in Navan, County Meath.

"Yet today, faced with the horrible, painful reality that Darren's young life has been brought to a tragic end, they would willingly swap all those achievements to have their son, brother, the one they love, back in their arms."

Fr Hurley said Darren - nicknamed The Dazzler because of his show-grabbing performances in the ring - had earned the admiration of the country when he won a bronze medal in Beijing last year.

But it was his beaming smile that had won the nation's heart, he said.

Among the hundreds of grieving mourners were Darren's parents Tony and Linda and sisters Nicole and Shaneika.

Representatives from the sporting world included Olympic winning fighter Michael Carruth, champion boxer Jim Rock, Martin Rogan, Mick Dowling, John Joe Nevin and Olympic athlete Eamonn Coghlan.

Kenny Egan, who travelled to the Beijing games with Darren and won silver, also attended wearing the Irish squad tracksuit.

Guard of honour

Fighters young and old from St Saviour's Olympic Boxing Academy in Dublin, where Darren spent 10 years honing his famed skills, sat near the top of the church.

Dressed in black club t-shirts they lined the grounds in a guard of honour as Darren's coffin was taken from the chapel.

Fr Hurley said Darren has remained grounded, despite his success.

"Wherever Darren went, his gentle, kind, modest and generous heart endeared him to everybody.

"His success in Beijing obviously brought great demands, but he responded generously, whether it was offering encouragement to young boxers, speaking to students in his former school, or visiting sick children in hospital."

He said he was a loving and caring son and brother.

During the funeral Mass a pair of boxing gloves, a framed photo of Darren, his Olympic tracksuit and his bronze medal were placed by his coffin, draped in a white sheet.

A bouquet of flowers in the shape of boxing gloves sat near the altar, before being placed in the waiting hearse.

As his hearse left the grounds of St Mary's for his final journey, the boys of St Saviour's formed a guard of honour.

Arts minister Martin Cullen was also among the mourners, while taoiseach Brian Cowen and president Mary McAleese were represented by their aides-de-camps.

Darren was buried in nearby St Finian's cemetery.

He had turned professional and joined the Maloney camp after his bronze medal success.

He was one of the leading lights on the Irish boxing scene in the four years before the games and regarded as one of the best talents coached under the Irish Sports Council's high performance unit.

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