OLYMPIAN Tony Jeffries has told of his shock at hearing his former sparring partner had been killed at a New Year’s Eve party.
Mark Denton, 31, died at a get-together in Hartlepool. Police have now launched a murder investigation.
Sunderland-born Tony, who now lives in Los Angeles, used to regularly spar with Mark and his brother Craig, before he retired from the sport in 2012 due to injury.
Tony – whose nickname is Jaffa – recalled fighting with Mark at a Hartlepool gym.
He said: “About three years ago, I used to do a lot of sparring with him and his brother. They were both really good lads.
“If you watched him in a fight, he would always have a good fight.
“He was really determined and just a really talented fighter. It’s a real shame.”
He added: “I would go to Hartlepool to meet up because it was hard for me to get sparring with big lads and he was a big lad.
“I always remember him being a good fighter.”
Mark, once ranked among the top middleweights in England, had been attending a New Year’s Eve party at a house on Hutton Avenue in Hartlepool when he suffered serious injuries.
He was taken to hospital, but died a short time later.
A post-mortem examination revealed he had died from an injury sustained during the incident.
Tony, who won a bronze medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, discovered the news after another friend in the UK got in touch and told him of Mark’s untimely death.
He said: “One of my friends sent me a message on Facebook to let me know.
“I just couldn’t believe it, I was so shocked. He was just 31 as well.
“I just want to send my respects to his family at this horrible time, it’s not a nice way to start the new year.”
Two men have appeared in court charged with Mark’s murder.
David Sowerby, 23, of Allerton Close, and Anthony Middleton, 21, of Bruntoft Avenue, both Hartlepool, are due to appear at Teesside Crown Court tomorrow.