Nick Durandt had humble beginnings and is now one of the top boxing trainers in Africa. His track record of producing a long list of world champions has earned him respect in the boxing fraternity and he is the most accomplished trainer in South Africa.
Durandt was born in Wolverhampton, England on Boxing Day and strongly believes that he was destined to be involved in the sport.
His family is traditionally athletic and while young, Durandt played football for the junior side of South Africa’s professional club, Wits University. Now, he is determined to contribute to South African sport by training a long line of boxing champions.
“Boxing is my passion. I enjoy every moment of my time training my fighters in the gym. Every morning, whenever I wake up, I feel highly motivated to go to work because I really like what I am doing as a trainer and manager of fighters,” says Durandt.
Durandt’s father, Cliff, played for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic before returning to his country of birth, South Africa. He was at Wolverhampton when the club won its last FA Cup and first division league title.
“When I came to South Africa from England I was very young. My father played professionally in England and he made a huge impact as a player, he was a great soccer player. Top soccer administrators in South Africa, like Irvin Khoza, Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono, know my father very well. He was instrumental in the move of both Lucas Radebe and Phil Masinga when they left South Africa to play in England for Leeds United.”
“At Wits I played for the under-21s. It was during the time Eddie Lewis was still coaching and I did sit on the bench for the first team on three occasions. Anyway, I felt that boxing was my greatest passion that is why, even now, I am still involved in boxing,” he says.
Durandt has guided boxers such as Phillip Ndou, Hawk Makepula, Silence Mabuza and Cassius Baloyi from unknown fighters to superstars. He is proud when his fighters improve in the ring and their bank balances start to swell.
“I have had so many great moments with my different world champions. It is very important for fighters to look after their finances well so that even when their fighting career is over they can still live a good life.”
Moruti Mthalane, one of the best boxers in Durandt’s stable, reveals that the trainer is doing a fantastic job advising him how to invest his money wisely. Mthalane pulled out of a mandatory title defence against Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng and relinquished the International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight title in the process. He was offered R60,000 ($5,800) for the fight, which Durandt labeled a disgrace. Mthalane will instead trade blows in a fight in Durban for a guaranteed R1 million ($97,000).
“I have worked with Nick for a very long time now. He is a hard worker and I am really inspired by him. He encourages me to do what is right in the gym. He has been guiding me well financially. I feel I have a bright future, even when my boxing career comes to an end, because I have made some good investments,” says Mthalane.
Durandt feels that boxing should get as much television coverage as other prominent sports in South Africa. This will give aspiring boxers some role models to look up to.
“In order to build more and more superstars, the television coverage is very important. People need to see the fighters live when they fight. Can you imagine; I arrive at the OR Tambo International Airport with the world champion and the people don’t know him or don’t recognize him.”
“When Floyd Mayweather is fighting, the whole world watches him and that is good for the sport. We have talented boxers in South Africa so it is very important for them to get the necessary exposure on television so that people know who they are,” he says.
Durandt says one of his proudest moments was meeting the late former South African president Nelson Mandela. His gym is decorated with pictures of himself and Madiba. Mandela was a keen boxer and Durandt feels that great man’s legacy in boxing will inspire a lot of fighters.
“Nelson Mandela is the most important person I have ever met in my life. It was such an honor for me to meet him. The first time I met with Madiba I spent about four hours with him in his home in Houghton. We had lunch with him and after that we spoke about all types of things in life. He was a very special person. I remember on one other occasion I took my son to meet him and he paid special attention to him.”
Durandt is also a dedicated businessman. He owns two gyms in Melrose Arch and Norwood in Johannesburg. He also owns a tattoo shop.
“Boxing is my life but the tattoo parlor is my hobby.”
His entrepreneurial spirit started at the age of 14 when he owned a video shop in Johannesburg. At one stage he owned 10 clothing stores in the Johannesburg CBD and later sold them at a healthy profit to concentrate more on his boxing interests.
“I am a businessman and I always do my best to have a good balance of my business life and family life. The fact that I still have all my jewellery with me, I have not sold any, is an indication that I am doing well in business,” he says.
“My style of running the business is to get actively involved in it. I need to be hands on and know exactly what is going on. I am very committed to my businesses. I opened a tattoo shop just across the road from my other gym in Norwood because is closer. I identify the opportunity in the business that I have passion for.”
Durandt’s success has attracted sponsors from sportswear brand Kappa and betting company Supabets.
“In business I partner with people that I feel are at my standard or the same level. Kappa, for instance, are a powerful sporting brand. Look how well they are doing in Italy. I am aware that they are also sponsoring other soccer teams in the Premier Soccer League. As for Supa Bets, they are the best in Africa. They are the number one brand in the continent in their industry so it is very good for my business to associate with them. The most important thing is that I have a very good relationship with my partners. I can phone them anytime and they provide me with all I need from them.”
Durandt is a fighter by heart. Whether in business or at ringside, he will never pull any punches.