DARREN SUTHERLAND was left battered and bruised after a late-night street brawl just weeks before he took his life.
Friends say the 27-year-old, who hanged himself in his flat in Bromley, southeast London, last Monday, tried to break up the fight but ended up being punched in the face.
The row took place on the High Street, outside the Star & Garter pub – the only gay bar in Bromley.
The boxer is not believed to have been drinking in the pub before the fight but instead got embroiled in it as he was walking past with friends, a few streets from his flat. The area is a regular flashpoint for violent fights at weekends.
Recently, Albanian drug dealers used baseball bats to smash the windows of their West Indian rivals’ Humvee – leading to a high-speed chase through the town which ended when one of the cars swerved off the road and exploded.
According to friends, the young Dubliner was ‘not himself’ after the brawl and appeared moody and downcast. He was also seen by a neighbour sporting a black left eye and a swollen face.
The fight happened after Darren’s June 30 victory at London’s York Hall over Gennadiy Raselev.
It was during this fight that he sustained an injury just below the eye, which later became infected and led to his having to pull out of a planned bout on July 10. The street fight Darren was embroiled in happened about three weeks later.
The neighbour said: ‘I just bumped into him and we were chatting when he caught me looking at his eye, which was all bruised.
‘I hadn’t said anything because, although I have lived in the flats for a while, I had never met Darren or even knew who he was.
‘He started laughing and pointed to his eye. He said, “Don’t look at me like that.
I’m not a bad guy if that is what you are thinking. I get hurt for a living. I’m a boxer”.’
A regular at O’Neill’s pub – one of Sutherland’s local pubs – added: ‘Darren tried to split up a fight that broke out between two lots of blokes.
‘But he was clocked himself, although I think he already had a bruise from one of his fights and this punch made things worse.’ The bar customer added: ‘I didn’t see him around much after that but, on the few occasions I did, he was not himself.
‘He was moody, sulky and just very quiet and not the happy-go-lucky guy he had always been. Everybody who knew him was saying the same thing and asking, “What’s up with Darren?”.’
Last night, Sutherland’s first pro coach, Dubliner Brendan Ingle, called for an inquiry into his death so the boxing profession could learn lessons from it.
He said: ‘What has happened is a tragedy and lessons need to be learned.
‘Everybody needs to understand what happened and why it happened, and maybe we can all then spot things better and hopefully help prevent this sort of tragedy happening again.’
Mr Maloney’s wife, Tracey, last night defended her husband against comments by the Sutherland family and their criticism over the way he handled matters in the aftermath of the boxer being found.
They have railed against the legendary 55-year-old boxing promoter-manager for not having called them until around 8pm – five hours after Darren’s body was found.
‘It’s not right that all these things being said about Frank,’ she said at the couple’s home.
‘The way he is being portrayed is so unfair, especially after all he has been through.
‘He’s bearing up despite the circumstances. He appreciates the family are upset and, as a result, things get said. They are obviously angry and want to hit out at somebody.’
She added: ‘As far as not calling the family to tell them Darren was dead, he was told it had to be the police who told them. He also thought it would be better dealt with face-to-face.’
Spokesman Steve Lillis said: ‘Frank was in an extreme state of shock after he found Darren. When he called me at about 4pm and asked me to handle things for him, he could hardly talk.’
He added: ‘He is aware that the family are saying one thing or another against him but that is up to them. They can say whatever they want.
‘Frank has now decided to say nothing more until after the inquest.’
Tony Sutherland has said he intends to hold a press conference on Tuesday to reveal ‘what really happened’.
Darren’s trainer, Brian Lawrence, has spoken of having to calm the boxer down and ‘reassure’ him over an issue that had been troubling him.
In one of the last interviews he gave before he died, Darren – who will be buried tomorrow in Navan, where his family lives – said: ‘London’s the place to be. Back home, the expectation is massive and it’s hard to be anonymous.
‘I know a world title is a long way off so I have to get my head down, be humble and work hard. It’s gonna be a long, tough journey.’