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Farewell The Man Who Called Mayweather A Coward

Published 4 years ago
By Forbes Africa

Africa mourned the death of one of its leading boxing trainers, Nick Durandt, who produced an extraordinary 95 South African champions, in 17 weight divisions, and 38 world champions through the WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO, WBF and IBO organizations.

The champions Durandt guided spanned generations; from Gerrie Coetzee, Brian Mitchell, Sugar Boy Malinga, Phillip Ndou, Cassius Baloyi, to Moruti Mthalane. Durandt took pride in turning ghetto boys, with few prospects, into world champs.

In April, the 53-year-old Durandt died in hospital in Bethlehem, in South Africa’s Free State province, after a motorbike accident. He was the president of Crusaders Bike Club at the time.

Durandt, who was recognizable by his blonde locks flowing out of a black beanie or bandana, was born on Boxing Day in 1963, in Wolverhampton, England. His South African father, Cliff Durandt, was a professional footballer, in South Africa and player for Wolverhampton Wanderers in England. Durandt, before he immersed himself in boxing, played football for the University of the Witwatersrand under-21s, coached by the late full-back Eddie Lewis.

“Many people talk about things larger than life, really to me Nick Durandt was larger than boxing. He produced so many champions that no one can compare [to him] in this country… He has done it all,” says Peter Leopeng, a boxing analyst and commentator.

The uncompromising Durandt was a tough negotiator who always put the best interests of his fighters first. Mthalane pulled out of the mandatory title defence against Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng and relinquished his IBF flyweight title after Durandt refused the R60,000 ($4,400) purse.  He later negotiated a R1–million ($75,000) sum in Durban.

Farewell The Man Who Called Mayweather A Coward

“Nick fought against any promoter who thought he could swindle his boxers out of the purse, that’s why he was unpopular. For a long time he didn’t get along with Rodney Berman for that same reason. He was passionate about making sure he got sponsorship and endorsement for his charges. All his boxers were dressed up in Kappa gear,” says Leopeng.

Durandt’s colorful lifestyle and relentless pursuit of improving life for his boxers made him popular outside the ring as well. Before his untimely death, he fought tirelessly with national broadcaster SABC to televise boxing. He was also a fervent critic of former sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, whom he accused of forsaking the dying sport. When Mbalula brought Floyd Mayweather to South Africa in 2012, in what they called ‘The Reawakening of the Giant’, to revive boxing, Durandt refused to endorse the project and likened it to a tour for Mayweather to view African animals and the picturesque Table Mountain.

When FORBES AFRICA interviewed Durandt in 2014, he pulled no punches.

“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 or don’t recognize him,” he said.

Leopeng had his own embarrassing encounter with angry Durandt in 2003. A high-spirited Durandt flew his African champion Ndou to the US to fight Mayweather. Days before the fight in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Durandt referred to Mayweather as a coward and promised his fans a knockout.

“Mayweather retorted that he would fight like a crocodile, he would take Ndou to the deep waters and see if he can swim out of the river. Durandt said that Ndou could swim breaststroke and backstroke. Mayweather pulverized and knocked out Ndou in the seventh round. Now back in South Africa, in a radio interview, I asked Durandt which stroke Ndou was doing while lying on the ground. Durandt swore at me and never spoke to me for six months,” recalls Leopeng.

Another memorable fight – billed as ‘Thunder in Africa’ – was between unheralded American Hasim Rahman and England’s WBC, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis at Carnival City, in Brakpan, east of Johannesburg, in 2001. Durandt was in Rahman’s corner when he knocked out Lewis in round five.

Although well-known for his bad temper, controversial character and tattoos, Durandt was a family man who was inseparable from his sons. When he retired in May 2016, he handed over the two gyms to his first born Damian, 26, whom he groomed from the age of 14. He also owned a tattoo shop across the road from his gyms.

To go with the many awards Durandt won as a trainer and manager in almost three decades in boxing, in January he received a Lifetime Achievement award from Boxing South Africa.

Durandt, known as Mthakathi, Zulu for wizard, will go down in history as the first trainer to be red carded for insulting the referee in Nasrec, Johannesburg. Boxing is duller without him.

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Related Topics: #Boxing, #June 2017, #Nick Durandt, #Trainer, #Tribute, #World Champion.