When Nic Durandt moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, from his native England at the age of 11 or 12, he began boxing for fitness at the local YMCA. His father Cliff was a professional soccer player who played in England, Brazil and South Africa, so staying in shape was instilled in Durandt’s head early on.
When he grew up he opened several clothing stores and eventually began utilizing his own clothing brand, LA Moment, to sponsor local fighters.
It was then that the boxing bug bit Durandt in a way that he could never have imagined. Today, the long-haired, heavily tattooed, and well-muscled 44-year-old Durandt owns Durandt’s Boxing Gym, which he says is the biggest of its kind in all of South Africa.
Moreover, he says that he has developed more world champions and top contenders from the ground up than any other trainer in that country’s history. His stable now consists of 54 professional fighters.
They include or have included Cassius Baloyi, who on May 31 stopped veteran Manuel Medina in the eleventh round in Airway Heights, Washington, to claim the vacant IBF super featherweight title, Vuyani Bungi, who beat Kennedy McKinney for the IBF super bantamweight title and made five successful defenses, super featherweight Masibulele “Hawk” Makepula, top-rated IBF bantamweight Silence Mabuza, and former lightweight title challenger Philip N’dou.
None of Durandt’s fighters have ever embarrassed themselves in losing efforts. Even when N’dou was stopped in seven rounds by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a WBC lightweight title fight in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in November 2003, he was lauded for his courage and determination.
Durandt’s first champion was super middleweight Thulani “Sugar Boy” Malinga, who won the WBC title by beating Nigel Benn in Benn’s home country of England in March 1996.
“Sugar Boy was the first WBC champion to ever come from South Africa,” said Durandt. “That is a major piece of boxing history back home. The night he won the title is still vivid in my head after all these years. It was a great night for Sugar Boy, a great night for me, and a great night for South Africa.”
Not only does Durandt train fighters, which he has been doing for 19 years, he also manages the ones that he trains. Most importantly, he says, “I don’t steal fighters from other trainers or managers. They come to me.”
Because we hear so much about rampant reverse racism in South Africa, as well a runaway crime epidemic and unbridled violence in the streets and on farmlands, I ask Durandt if that poses any problems for him.
He is after all a white man representing mostly black athletes in a country that until recently was mired in apartheid.
“That’s all bull, total nonsense,” he says. “I would argue that there is more crime in most places outside South Africa than there is in South Africa. It is very overrated, especially by American journalists.
“I travel throughout the United States and always read in the newspapers about drive-by shootings and guys on the [lacrosse] team raping women (a not so unveiled reference to the recent scandal at Duke University).”
Durandt says that the key to his success is simple. He doesn’t B.S. anybody and what you see is what you get with him. When it comes to training fighters, he is as much of a student as he is a teacher. That way he is always looking for ways to improve his game.
“I don’t bring pretenders to the ring,” he adamantly proclaims. “I bring real contenders. I never bring my fighters to the United States or other countries for a payday. I bring them there to win.”
Durandt’s winning formula has been utilized around the world. His intense demeanor makes it readily apparent that boxing is his passion.
“I eat, love and breathe boxing,” he said. “It is my job, but I don’t consider it work. I would do everything I do for free and like it just as much.”
It also enables him to spend quality time with his beloved 15-year-old son Damien, who works as his assistant and also carries the fighters’ championship belts into the ring.
Damien, who attends Crawford College, a renowned South African educational institution, is a big boxing fan. He loves watching fighters with quick hands, so his favorites are Mabuza and Roy Jones Jr.
Damien, who hopes to be both a lawyer and an entrepreneur someday, participates in cricket, soccer, basketball, and motocross.
He would love to compete in boxing, but his father won’t allow it. He lets him train for conditioning, just like he did as a youngster, but he forbids him from doing anything more than that.
When the older Durandt is asked why takes such a hard-line approach to his son’s wishes, especially in a sport that has been so good to him and his family, his grin suggested both sheepishness and mischievousness.
“I didn’t send my son to private school to be a boxer,” he said and he left it at that.