Even with his mullet‚ bling and penchant for hanging out with gangsters‚ Nick Durandt was once mistaken for a cop in the US.
The former boxing trainer died after he collided with a vehicle while riding his motorcycle in the rural Free State on Friday.
In 2003, he was preparing for what turned out to be his mission impossible‚ taking Phillip “The Time Bomb” Ndou into the ring against Floyd Mayweather‚ then still a lightweight and on his way to becoming the planet’s top pound-for-pound fighter.
Durandt was accompanied by a small entourage‚ which included his longtime friend‚ Ralph Haynes.
He had organised sweatshirts emblazoned with “Bomb Squad”.
Standing outside the hotel he was approached by a passer-by asking what was going on. Without missing a beat‚ Durandt replied: “I’m just checking the hotel out.”
Ndou lost that fight in Mayweather’s home town of Grand Rapids‚ Michigan‚ and Durandt was widely criticised at home for his training methods.
But in the US‚ the reaction was different. Then newly crowned heavyweight champion Roy Jones jnr approached Ndou and praised his courage‚ predicting he would win a world title.
Durandt had known Jones from years earlier‚ when he worked with the famous Duva boxing family in the US‚ learning the hurt game from all angles‚ which helped him become the only trainer/manager in South Africa to earn a fulltime living from boxing.
Many trainers loathed Durandt‚ but it says something about him that almost all of South Africa’s top boxers gravitated into his orbit at some stage of their career.
For Durandt‚ his most important boxer was arguably Ndou.
In 1997, Durandt was sidelined when tape recordings of conversations he had – in which he used the K-word among other derogatory terms and had spoken about Jews and Indians – were made public.
No one owned up to the recordings‚ which were so heavily edited that it was difficult to make out the context of his comments.
Without the original recording‚ the national commission did not take action against him.
But promoter Rodney Berman and sponsors dumped Durandt quickly. His assistant trainer at the time‚ Elias Tshabalala‚ departed‚ taking with him a host of fighters‚ including Cassius Baloyi and Sugarboy Malinga.
Ndou was one of the few to stay loyal‚ ignoring pressure from people to leave. At the time Durandt said Ndou was the only reason he did not quit the game.
Durandt lost almost everything then‚ from his first marriage to his flashy cars. Even his character changed; the abrasive‚ loud and frequently foulmouthed mentor was humbled.
Ndou climbed the world rankings and Durandt forced his way back into Berman’s business.
He had a rare insight into human nature‚ being able to read people quickly.
He knew which of his fighters he could slap‚ and who to swear at‚ and even those he could not swear at all‚ because he knew they could not handle it.
Durandt’s downfall in boxing came after fall-outs with Berman in 2009 and later Branco Milenkovic‚ at the time the country’s second-biggest promoter.
With SABC not televising boxing after blowing its sport budget on the 2010 World Cup‚ opportunities dried up for Durandt.
He branched out into other ventures‚ like boxercise gyms‚ a tattoo parlour and becoming president of the Crusaders bike club.
Durandt dropped the tough guy veneer only once in the time I knew him. I was doing a feature-writing course and I wanted to do a profile on him. He agreed.
In the piece, I quoted him profanity for profanity‚ and because it was not for publication‚ I gave him a printout of the story afterwards.
When he finished reading it‚ Durandt turned to me: “If you publish this‚ please take out my swearing. I wouldn’t want my mother to know I talk like this.”