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.
“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.
How To Gather With Friends And Family At Weddings And Events
TOPLINE The coronavirus pandemic may undo the way we tie the knot for years to come, giving rise to micro-weddings, “minimonies” and postponements. All event organizers should monitor state and local guidelines and guests should stay 6 feet apart.
- Consult state and local guidelines on attendee limits for indoor and outdoor social gatherings.
- Organizers should “continually assess” the situation, including the total number of guests, the level of virus transmission in the local area and the layout of the venue, when deciding whether the event should be postponed, canceled, or the guest list significantly reduced, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The bigger the gathering, the higher the risk. “For a wedding or a funeral, unfortunately, those are going to be high-risk events right now and probably until we have a safe and effective vaccine, or at least until we get the transmission of this virus under much better control,” says Crystal Watson, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other guests, as social distancing is key in any group setting.
- Place hand sanitizer on every table.
- Postpone the big celebration in favor of a “minimony”—a mini ceremony with an officiant and one or two witnesses present.
- Consider a micro-wedding of no more than 20 guests. These budget-friendly options can still include the special touches typically associated with bigger affairs.
- “A micro-wedding offers couples the opportunity to have all the best of a traditional wedding without the stress and cost associated with hosting a big fat wedding. You can still have a beautiful venue, flowers, cake, the bridal gown and snazzy suit, gorgeous decor and a tasty dinner if those are the elements that say ‘wedding’ to you — but just with a smaller group of people,” says Kelly Story, wedding coordinator and owner of Storybrook Events, which has offered micro-weddings at a farm in Jonesborough, Tennessee since 2018.
- Interview vendors in advance about their safety protocols and add necessary safety requirements to your vendor contract.
- Don’t skimp on a photographer. Those who are unable to attend will be thrilled to see your day captured in amazing photographs.
- Accent floral arrangement centerpieces with mini hand sanitizers by adding custom labels for them from a company such as StickerGiant or Vistaprint.
- Skip the buffet, use disposable dinnerware and bottled or pre-poured beverages. Buffets tend to create long lines and crowds, which increases potential for virus transmission.
Elopements never go out of style. “Many couples are opting for A Little White Chapel’s famous drive-thru wedding tunnel, because they needn’t even leave their car to get hitched,” says Charolette Richards, the self-described “Wedding Queen of the West” and owner of the iconic Las Vegas drive-thru tunnel of love. “Many arrive on horseback or motorcycles, incorporating the couple’s favorite pastimes. It’s also outdoors which allows for more space between guests.” Richards has officiated thousands of weddings over the past 50 years.
When choosing a venue, make sure there is enough space for guests to socially distance, says Adette Contreras, cofounder of Tinsel Experiential Design. If it does not have the layout to accommodate six feet of separation between people, find another space (or trim the guest list further).
Contreras highlights another advantage of hosting an intimate event: “Smaller gatherings can be more intimate and provide opportunities for meaningful conversations with family and friends.”
“Don’t let the pandemic steal your joy!” says Story. “You never know, your Covid-era wedding may be more perfect and magical than you ever dreamed. Keeping your wedding small may turn out to be exactly what you wanted after all.”
Birds Of A Feather: The Stepchickens Cult On TikTok Is The Next Evolution Of The Influencer Business
Like any self-respecting cult, the Stepchickens follow a strict code of conduct as dictated by their absolute leader, Mother Hen, a comedian named Melissa who posts on TikTok as @chunkysdead. Mother Hen has widely preached a message of peace, telling her 1.7 million TikTok followers: “We do not rule by being cruel, we shine by being kind.” Further, she has asked all Stepchickens to make themselves easily identifiable and make her photo their TikTok profile picture.
Mother Hen has created TikTok’s first “cult.” (Her word.) Boiled down, she is a social media influencer, and the Stepchickens are her fans, just as more famous TikTok influencers—Charli D’Amelio, Addison Rae and the like—all have their fanbases. But Mother Hen’s presence and style is quite singular, particularly in the way she communicates with her followers, what she asks them to do and how the Stepchickens respond to her. After all, not every member of the Charli hive use her image as their profile pictures.
“These influencers are looking for a way to build community and figure out how to monetize their community. That’s the No. 1 most important thing for a creator or an influencer,” says Tiffany Zhong, cofounder of ZebraIQ, a community and trends platform. “It’s become a positive for Gen Z, where you’re proud to be part of this cult—part of this community. They are dying to be part of a community. So it’s easy to get sucked in.”
Mother Hen, who didn’t return a request to comment for this story, already had a popular comedy vlog-style TikTok account on May 6 when she asked her followers to send suggestions for what they could name their cult. From the ideas offered up, she chose Stepchickens, and in the 19 days since, her following has more than doubled. (It was around 700,000 back at the beginning of this month.) She has posted videos about taking edibles, her celebrity lookalikes and her relationship status (“all this cult power, still no boyfriend”). And perhaps in violation of her first-do-no-harm credo, Mother Hen has implored her followers to embark on “battles” and “raids,” where Stepchickens comment bomb other influencers’ videos, posting messages en masse. She has become the mother of millions: TikTok videos with #stepchickens have generated 102 million views on the app, and her own videos have received 54.6 million likes.
Mother Hen is now concentrating on feathering her nest. She has launched a large range of merch: smartphone cases ($24), hoodies ($44), t-shirts ($28) and beanies ($28). Corporate sponsorships seem within reach, too. TikTok accounts for the Houston Rockets, Tampa Bay Rays and one for the Chicago Bulls mascot, Benny, all changed their profile picture to the image distributed by Mother Hen. The Rays sent her a box of swag, addressing the package to “Mother Hen,” of course. She dressed up in the gear (two hats, a fanny pack, a tank top) and recorded herself wearing it in a TikTok, a common move by influencers to express gratitude and signal that they’re open to business sponsorship opportunities. Mother Hen has launched a YouTube channel, too, where she’ll earn ad revenue based on the views that her 43,000 subscribers generate by watching her content.
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Then there is the Stepchickens app available on Apple devices. This digital roost is a thriving message feed—it resembles a Slack channel or a Discord server—where Stepchickens congregate, chat and coordinate their raids. They can also use it to create videos, ones “to glorify mother hen,” the app’s instructions read.
The app launched last Monday and has already attracted more than 100,000 users, a benchmark that most apps do not ever see and the best reach within months of starting. Since its debut, it has ranked as high as the ninth most popular social media app in the world on the download charts and in the Top 75 most downloaded across all types of apps. The Stepchickens have traded 135,000 messages, and the app’s most devoted users are spending as long as 10 hours a day on it, says Sam Mueller, the cofounder and CEO of Blink Labs who built the Stepchickens app.
“There’s this emergence of a more active—a more dedicated—fan base and following. A lot of the influencers on TikTok are kind of dancing around, doing some very broadcast-y type content. Their followers might not mobilize nearly as much as” the Stepchickens, says Mueller. Mother Hen’s flock, by contrast, “feel like they’re part of something, feel like they’re connected. They can have fun and be together for something bigger than what they’re doing right now, which is kind of being at home bored and lonely. There’s untapped value here.”
Here Are All The Crazy Things People Are Betting On In The Absence Of Live Sports
TOPLINE With most live sports suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, online gamblers have turned to different contests like Russian table tennis and Korean baseball, while also betting on everything from video games and reality television shows to political news and even the weather.
- “[English] darts and esports have had big increases in betting volumes, along with football [soccer] leagues that have kept playing like the Belarusian Premier League,” says Pascal Lemesre, a spokesman for U.K. betting exchange platform Smarkets. “Horse racing remains our most-traded sport and has made up two-thirds of volume since the lockdown began.”
- Many betting companies, like DraftKings, had to really dig and get creative with new offerings during the pandemic, says Johnny Avello, head of sportsbook for DraftKings. “We went out and found whatever we could… we wanted to keep our customers engaged.”
- A charity golf match with Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Phil Mickleson and Tom Brady, for example, has drawn massive interest and could surpass the betting volumes DraftKings saw in last year’s major golf tournaments.
- Betting on esports has also seen a huge uptick and has really “made its mark,” he says: Virtual NASCAR races proved to be immensely popular, along with daily fantasy for video games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
- There has also been a lot of interest in betting on politics, including who will win the 2020 U.S. presidential election, who Democratic nominee Joe Biden will choose as his vice president and how long UK prime minister Boris Johnson will stay in office.
- According to data from Smarkets, almost $2 million has already been traded on the election, with Donald Trump retaining a 5% lead over Joe Biden; Kamala Harris is frontrunner to be Biden’s VP, slightly ahead of Amy Klobuchar.
- Since the Democratic debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in mid-March, DraftKings has offered free-to-play betting pools around many political events, along with reality television shows like Survivor and Top Chef, and even the weather in certain states.
Bettors have certainly shown interest in gambling on the outcomes of their favorite TV shows: According to data from BetOnline, there was even a flurry of betting on the final episode of The Last Dance, with odds on things like whether Michael Jordan would cry while being interviewed or how many people would be shown with a cigar in their mouth.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Sportsbooks are seeing huge pent-up demand as some major sports like NASCAR and German Bundesliga soccer start to resume. Soccer, which normally makes up 45% of the Smarkets’ betting volume, fell to 23%, maintained largely by interest in the Belarusian Premier League and Nicaraguan soccer, both of which continued to play games amid the pandemic. With the German Bundesliga resuming last weekend, betting volumes increased 428% compared to the previous round of fixtures before coronavirus, according to Smarkets.
“When you don’t have all the normal content, customers will migrate,” Avello says. “That’s the positive that’s going to come out of this—we’re always looking for additional content.”
DraftKings reported record betting during the NFL Draft last month—13x the volume from last year—and has also seen strong interest in the recent return of Ultimate Fighting Championship events, the company said. “We got good action on the stuff we did, but now that we’re starting to get back to core events, demand should rise even higher,” Avello predicts. If the NBA and NHL start playoff seasons this summer and the MLB returns, for instance, “it could be one of the bigger summers that we’ve ever had.”
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