Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:10 UK

Tributes paid after boxer's death

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

Tributes have been paid to Irish Olympic boxer Darren Sutherland, who was found dead in his London flat.

The 27-year-old, who won a bronze medal last year in Beijing, was discovered on Monday by his manager Frank Maloney.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the death in Bromley, south London, was not being treated as suspicious.

Mr Maloney was taken to hospital after finding the body and it was later confirmed he had recently suffered a heart attack.

However, there is a possibility Maloney had the heart attack last week, and not after making the grim discovery in the flat.

Former world champion Barry McGuigan said: "It is an absolute tragedy. I would describe Darren as a phenomenal talent."

He added: "I believe he would have become a world champion in the professional ranks one day."

Michael Carruth, who won welterweight gold for Ireland at the 1992 Olympics, said: "He had the power, he had the charisma, everything that goes into making a top-class pro, he had the ingredients there.

He was an excellent fighter and he was a gentleman outside the ring as well
James DeGale

"Unfortunately we are never going to get to see this now."

Pat Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, said Sutherland was a superb individual with a terrific personality.

"In Beijing he was the life and soul of the Irish Olympic squad," he said.

"His Olympic colleagues enjoyed his irrepressible good humour and his keen interest in all of the various sports that Ireland participated in."

Britain's Olympic middleweight champion James DeGale, who beat Sutherland in Beijing, spoke of his shock at the Irishman's death.

Austin O'Callaghan
Austin O'Callaghan, BBC Northern Ireland sports reporter
Any professional fighter will tell you that being a pro can be a lonely existence at times.

When you're an amateur you're always travelling with a team and surrounded by people.

Darren was such a positive, warm guy - the life and soul of the party.

He just attracted people to him and always seemed to have a positive outlook on life, which makes this news all the more tragic."

"It is very, very sad news - I just can't believe it," he said.

"It is a tragedy. First and foremost, my heart goes out to his family. I just could not believe it; my heart went to the floor when I heard.

"He was a big part of my Olympic medal journey. I just do not know what to say except he was a brilliant fighter, in fact an excellent fighter. He was a gentleman outside the ring as well."

Irish Sports Minister Martin Cullen said: "Ireland has lost a sportsman of wonderful ability, a clever and popular man with a future of real potential.

"His early death deprives us of a magnificent talent."

Dominic O'Rourke, president of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, said that Sutherland's death had devastated the fighters with whom he came through the domestic ranks.

"They're all in desperate shock," he said.

"He was such a popular young lad within the association. He talked to all the kids and they all loved him."

Sutherland had trained with Brendan Ingle in Sheffield while in his teens but gave up the sport.

He returned to the ring in 2004 while studying sports science at Dublin City University.

After his success in Beijing, the fighter turned professional and joined the Maloney camp, winning his first fight in Dublin last December by knockout.

His next professional fight had been scheduled for next month.

In a statement, Mr Maloney said Sutherland's death was very sad and unexpected and a tragedy for Ireland and the world of boxing.

"At this sad time my thoughts are with Darren's family," he said.

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