CRAIG JOHNS BREAKS THE FIRST RULE Light at the end of the tun­nel for Dar­ren

Sunday Sun - - Boxing -

AS much as we all love it, at times box­ing can be the most lonely and cru­ellest of sports - par­tic­u­larly for its com­bat­ants.

For ev­ery charm­ing story of a me­te­oric rise to the top from noth­ing, there’s an equal dark story of a war­rior be­ing failed by the sys­tem. Durham’s Dar­ren Sur­tees (birth name Dar­ren Richard­son) can cer­tainly at­test to that.

Just 16 months ago Sur­tees was one of the brightest prospects in North East box­ing, ris­ing along­side the ul­ti­mate North East suc­cess story Lewis Rit­son. In just his sev­enth fight the 24-year-old East Durham Col­lege trained fighter cap­tured the su­per-light­weight North­ern Area ti­tle and looked to be on course for big things.

A spot on the Ge­orge Groves-Chris Eubank Jnr un­der­card came Sur­tees’ way, only for a back in­jury to force his with­drawal, ul­ti­mately lead­ing to 13 months out of the ring and send­ing him on a dark spi­ral of de­pres­sion that al­most re­sulted in him quit­ting the sport he has loved all of his life.

“There was some dark days for me,” Sur­tees ad­mits.

“I thought I was on this path to achiev­ing some­thing amaz­ing and then all of a sud­den it seemed it was all taken away.

“It wasn’t just the box­ing. My per­sonal life was messed up too. I split with my part­ner and was strug­gling to see my three chil­dren. I was the low­est I’ve ever been.

“It made me re­assess ev­ery­thing. Was box­ing re­ally worth it? Peo­ple don’t see the sac­ri­fices you have to make. I was work­ing ten-hour shifts be­fore the back in­jury, then go­ing straight to the gym from work and not spend­ing time with my kids. Come fight night, be­cause I couldn’t sell enough tick­ets, I wasn’t mak­ing any money.

“Then the back in­jury robbed me of my op­por­tu­nity to im­press on a big stage and per­haps make some­thing of my­self in the sport.

“I re­mem­ber speak­ing to my dad and also my coach Dave (Binns). I was con­sid­er­ing quit­ting. I asked Dave out­right to tell me if he thought I was wast­ing my time.”

Thank­fully for Sur­tees, his fa­ther and his coach were both sup­port­ive. They gave him the love and the mo­ti­va­tion he Durham boxer Dar­ren Sur­tees needed to pick him­self back up. It’s not lux­ury by any means, but Sur­tees now lives in a trailer in his fa­ther’s back­yard.

With his and Dave’s mo­ti­va­tion, he got him­self back to the gym. He started see­ing his kids more. Sud­denly his life was get­ting bet­ter. He was feel­ing bet­ter.

He made his re­turn to the ring in July beat­ing Wil­liam War­bur­ton on points in what he says was his best per­for­mance to date.

“I was back in love with the sport again,” he said. “Be­cause of that the pres­sure was off and I just felt so re­laxed in there.”

It has taken some dark days, but his re­silience has paid off. There’s a bright new dawn on the hori­zon for Sur­tees now.

That’s be­cause the Durham boxer has signed a deal with the in­flu­en­tial Sauer­land Pro­mo­tions – who have played a big part in the hugely pop­u­lar World Box­ing Su­per Se­ries.

His first bout will be on the mid­dleweight fi­nal un­der­card in Saudi Ara­bia be­tween Ge­orge Groves and Callum Smith on Septem­ber 28. It’s a huge plat­form for Sur­tees and one he in­tends to take with both hands.

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” he ad­mits. “I’m ab­so­lutely over the moon. Hon­est- ly, af­ter ev­ery­thing I’ve been through it’s hard to put into words how I feel.

“This is a huge op­por­tu­nity for me and one I can’t pass up.

“It’s a great deal for me. I’m not on a ticket deal so I don’t have to sell tick­ets to get paid.

“It means I can fo­cus more on just the train­ing and I’m feel­ing bet­ter than ever as a re­sult.

“I’m look­ing to make a big state­ment on Septem­ber 28 and go from there.

“I don’t want to look past the fight but the Sauer­lands know what they’re do­ing and can get me into the po­si­tions I want to be in.

“I want to be busy and I want big fights. I’d love to get on that Oc­to­ber 13 arena show in New­cas­tle.”

This is with­out doubt a huge break for Sur­tees.

All the tools are now there for him to achieve as much as he wants. In Binns he has a fan­tas­tic coach.

In Sauer­land Pro­mo­tions he has a team who can take him to the very top.

But does he have the tal­ent to match? Per­haps his spar­ring is an in­di­ca­tor.

“I’ve been spar­ring Lewis Rit­son re­cently. He’s an ab­so­lute beast, even in spar­ring.

“But what’s en­cour­ag­ing is that I more than held my own. There was some tasty ses­sions be­tween us.

“He’s a great lad and I’m de­lighted to see how well he’s do­ing. Con­sid­er­ing how good he is, for me to com­pete with him like I do in spar­ring just re­as­sures me that I am good enough.

“I spar Glenn (Foot – also train­ing with Binns at East Durham Col­lege) a lot too. You have to be on your game ev­ery time you spar with Glenn be­cause he’ll hurt you bad if you’re not.

“Again, Glenn is a top boxer and we spar so much. If I’m fight­ing th­ese kind of peo­ple on the gym reg­u­larly, there’s no rea­son I can’t be do­ing that when it re­ally mat­ters too. I want to fight the best.”

It’s true, box­ing can be cruel and lonely some­times. But when the right op­por­tu­nity comes, if you take it with both hands the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Sur­tees has his op­por­tu­nity. Now it’s his time to grasp it and be­come box­ing’s lat­est ‘rags to riches’ story.

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