It’s hard to condense a career spanning 29 years into the confines of this page. Even harder to try and break down each one of the achievements and give it the necessary recognition.
So successful was Nick Durandt’s time as a boxing trainer and manager that there is a list of accomplishments including 38 world, 28 international and 97 South African champions.
“It all started with me sponsoring one or two fighters from my businesses. When I was a young guy I bounced in night clubs and the fight scene went hand in hand. I fell in love with it. I’ve had a lot of phenomenal relationships with fighters, they become family,” Durandt said after announcing his retirement from the sport this week.
It was a love affair that started back in 1987, ignited by his association with legendary Willie Toweel, and culminated in a long list of champions. Durandt’s firs major crowning moment came in 1996 when he guided Sugar Boy Malinga to the WBC middleweight world title, the first time an African fighter had wrested one of boxing’s major belts.
“Did Sugar Boy make me? No, I made Sugar boy. He was done when he joined me. Everyone said he was an old horse. I think that was an early start to a phenomenal career. It showed people that this youngster with the long hair knew what he was doing. It rubber stamped to the entire boxing fraternity that there was a new kid on the block,” Durandt, who was 32 at the time, said of that moment.
Fast-forward 20 years later and Durandt admits that he started to lose some of the passion that drove him to get the best out of his fighters during an illustrious career. The blame squarely on the shoulders of the boxing administration for their failure to protect the game.
“The passion started slowly dying. the hardest thing was to come here daily and work out with 16-17 fighters and train them for nothing. There were no dates. No fights. Nothing.
“I don’t believe I’m doing my fighters any justice by staying in the game and there’s no work. My job is to get them work.The game’s change. it’s changed over the last five years, sadly, and it’s not where it used to be. There are no superstars. No role models,” Durandt said.
There’s no such thing as walking on egg shells when in the company of Durandt, an imposing figure with his skin covered in tattoos, his neck and fingers dripping in gold jewellery and trademark white sneakers.
It’s one of his endearing qualities. He never pulls his punches when talking to a person, rather you know exactly where you stand. A rare trait. Not many people will be aware that Durandt is also a family man, the names of his sons Damien and Storm, proudly displayed in ink etched into his hands.
“People believe Nick is that arrogant oke but you’ve travelled with me, I’m a family man. I’m on a stage. On a big stage. I can’t go to a press conference and make nice. We’re there to kick your arse and then afterwards I’ll shake your hand. If you don’t want to that’s OK because I’ll probably never see you again but my guy won.”
There are also three qualities that Durandt, who will now focus on his tattoo shop and executive boxing gyms as his business interests, singled out that helped him forge his way as one of the sport’s most colourful characters.
“I could motivate fighters. I could condition fighters. You would never find a Durandt fighter unfit. If he loses it’s not because he was unfit it’s because he fought like a prick. And I had an understanding of different personalities.
“Those were my three biggest assets. My fighters respected me. If i said we were training at midnight they would be there. I understood the game of boxing.”
“But I also had the fighters. You can’t make a loaf of bread if you don’t have the ingredients. I had great talent I was able to nurture into world champions. I never wrapped fighters in cotton wool, never ran away from a challenge.”
“I’ve given 29 years to this business and I’ll love it until I die. I’ve lived it my brother. I’ve had the glory.”