22 August 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Darren Sutherland’s hopes of Olympic gold were ended by a disappointing 10-3 defeat to bitter rival James DeGale in Beijing on Friday.
Middleweight Sutherland had triumphed in four of their five previous meetings but, in winning their most recent encounter, it appeared that DeGale had made a crucial psychological breakthrough because the Briton always looked supremely confident of victory in this contest.
DeGale controlled the bout from the outside, keeping Sutherland out of range as he went about scoring with right hands and superbly-timed left uppercuts.
Sutherland, though, it has to said, did not produce his best form. The Dubliner saw some good shots fail to register with the judges but, defensively, he was nowhere near as tight as he had been in his win over Alfonso Blanco Parra in the quarter-finals.
Crucially, his left hand, which had one much of the damage against Blanco, was also far less effective. Essentially, Sutherland struggled to get close to DeGale and had to go chasing his man from an early stage, and that led to mistakes.
The first round had been desperately tight and cagey, which was hardly surprising given their familiarity with one another.
It was also unsurprising that the rounded ended level at one point apiece.
DeGale had moved two clear by the end of the second, though, after scoring with a brilliant left uppercut and a sweet right hand just before the bell.
The British fighter enjoyed further success with his left uppercuts and right hands in the third, the round which effectively decided the bout in his favour, DeGale winning it 5-1.
The heavy-handed Sutherland pressed forward in the final round, looking desperately for the haymaker that might stun DeGale and allow the Irishman to turn the fight around.
However, DeGale, who must now be supremely confident of winning gold, again boxed sensibly on the outside as he claimed a win which will have meant much to him, not least because of the ill-feeling between him and his opponent.
For Sutherland, meanwhile, defeat to DeGale will come as a bitter blow but he should not dwell on it. Indeed, like his team-mates Kenny Egan and Paddy Barnes, he has made history by claiming a medal in Beijing and should soon start looking forward excitedly to what should prove a hugely successful career in the paid ranks.