Boxing Snippets

Young Damien continues the Durandt legacy.

With his background, it is perhaps a no-brainer that Damien Durandt has emerged as one of South Africa’s top trainers. Yet, it was not always a given for the son of South Africa’s most prolific trainer of champions, the late Nick Durandt.
“I was always surrounded by boxing, watching it on TV at home, carrying belts to the ring, going to the gym with my dad. I even tried to play a little bit of cricket while they were punching the bags,” laughs Durandt. “Then in May 2016 my father retired,” he continues. “I was actually happy just running the gym, training the public. My dad said to me, ‘My boy, just go do it. Prove to people it is in your blood. Just go out there, make your first world champion and then get back to me.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Durandt got his first world champion at the age of 29 in January of 2020, when Ilunga “Junior” Makabu became the new WBC cruiserweight champion. In the first world title fight to be held in Kinshasa since the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974, Makabu, who is from the DRC, won a unanimous decision over Michal Cieslak in a hard-fought contest.
That moment was the highlight of Durandt’s career as a trainer. The victory meant more than just a world title. “The biggest thing for me in that fight, my dad always believed Makabu would be a world champion. Unfortunately, they didn’t do it together, but I feel like I accomplished my father’s last task in making Junior a world champion.”
“He is not your ordinary boxer. He is a different kind of fighter,” Durandt describes Makabu. “He comes from awkward angles. By the time you think you have an idea, he may have laid you out already.” He has big plans for his flagship fighter. “I would like to see him unify the division and fight for The Ring title. That is something very few African fighters have done.”
Durandt’s success does not stop with Makabu.
There is a new rising star, junior middleweight Brandon Thysse, who has become a remarkable success story. He upset the applecart by winning the 4@War tournament with impressive wins over Roarke Knapp and Boyd Allen. His fine form continued when he recently won his first international fight, becoming the first man to stop Tomi Silvennoinen of Finland. Durandt was happy with the performance and would like to continue the international route. “He showed that he has the ability to change up his style, be a more complete boxer. We have seen him be more aggressive in his previous two fights. This fight, we didn’t want to have too much aggression but use his ability to box more. If he were too aggressive in this fight, he would have taken more counter punches than he should. He utilized his jab very well in this fight. We are happy to campaign at the international level right now.”
Speaking of international fights, he is one of the few trainers who have done well fighting on the road, recording several victories in Russia. What is the secret? Durandt believes you either go big or go home with a loss on your record. “Every time you travel you have to win convincingly. They are not bringing you there to win. Either win on points convincingly or stop the guy. If you make it close, you know what is going to happen.”
Durandt has a solid stable that includes another DRC fighter, junior middleweight Emmany Kalombo, who recently gave the highly touted Israil Madrimov all he could handle and the streaking South African and WBC international flyweight champion, Jackson Chauke, who is fresh off a win over young upstart, Luyanda Ntwanambi. Junior bantamweight, Athenkosi Dumezweni, a former WBC silver champion, also recently got back in the win column and Durandt has high hopes for his junior welterweight prospect Ntethelelo Nkosi.
What makes a successful trainer?
“I think motivation is a big key. You must be able to instill that self-belief in an athlete. When a fighter believes in himself, that brings out more. Then, being in the gym all the time, putting your life into it. Knowing what you want and showing the fighters that you want it just as bad as they do.”
By the looks of it, Damien Durandt has only just begun. Makabu may well be the first of many world champions to follow.

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