sparring with nick

SOME people label him as arrogant and racist, and his detractors refuse to give him the credit he deserves for his achievements as a boxing trainer.

This is the loquacious Nicholas Durandt, an accomplished trainer-manager and prolific swearer.

Born on December 26 1963 (Boxing Day) in Wolverhampton, England, Durandt started honing the skills of local boxers in 1989.

His fighter Cassius Baloyi's defence of the World Boxing Union junior featherweight title against Anton Gilmore at Wembley Arena on March 23 1997 was the first-ever world title fight between two South Africans.

In April this year, two of Durandt's charges, Baloyi and Malcolm Klassen, fought each other for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior lightweight fight. It was the first world championship between stablemates in this country. He also produced three IBF world champions in five months this year.

Durandt took time off from his busy schedule and poured his heart out to Sowetan.

Q: Do you hold dual passports?

A: Yes, but South Africa is my home. I have lived here since I was four years old.

Q: There are allegations that you are a racist. Are you?

A: No - 99percent of my fighters are black boxers. I take those allegations with a pinch of salt.

Q: Your father, Cliff Durandt, was a soccer player for Wolverhampton Wanderers and Charlton Athletic. Why did you not follow in his footsteps?

A: I did. I played for Wits University (Bidvest Wits) under Eddie Lewis.

Q: Did you try to box and who inspired you?

A: Yes. I boxed at the YMCA in Braamfontein under the late Oom Andries Steyn. Dingaan Thobela was very inspirational for me. He was my friend.

Q: Who was your hero in boxing?

A: Marvin "Marvelous" Hagler. My gym, business and amateur club was called Hagler.

Q: How many SA, world and international champions have you produced?

A: Internationally 25, 87 South African and 19 world champions.

Q: What is your most memorable achievement?

A: A lot - it can take a full page of your newspaper. That includes producing the first (local) WBC world champion, Thulani Malinga, and Phillip Ndou defeating Cassius Baloyi.

Q: Most of your charges are black fighters. Can you speak any of their languages?

A: I try my best.

Q: Is swearing a language that your fighters understand better or is it a way of encouraging them?

A: It is not done in any form that is demeaning to them. People might not like it but if it helps my fighters win fights, then I will continue swearing.

Q: What makes you happy?

A: Taking a young man from day one and helping him to become a champion and a better person in society.

Q: Things that you don't like?

A: I don't like dishonest people and those who stab you in the back.

Q: Don't you think taking up a promoter's licence will benefit your boxers - rather than waiting for promoters to offer you fights?

A: There are enough promoters on the local scene at the moment and I still love being at the ringside and guiding a fighter to victory. I still love the smell of sweat and blood.

Q: How much do you spend on airtime per month to get your boxers fights?

A: Between R5000 and R10000.

Q: What is your ultimate goal as a trainer-manager?

A: To train a household name throughout the world like Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.

Q: How much time do you spend with your family?

A: Only 30percent. I spend the rest with my boxers.

Q: Are you married and to whom, with how many kids?

A: I got married to Michelle in Las Vegas nine years ago. We have two boys, Damien, 19, from my first marriage, and Storm, 7.

Q: What car do you drive now?

A: Mercedes Benz C63 AMG.

Q: What is Damien's role in the gym?

A: He is my assistant in the ring. Kenneth "Mr Jones" Mabunda is my right-hand man.

Q: How did you feel when Baloyi left you after being dethroned by Klassen in April?

A: Extremely disappointed. I would have loved to bring him back as the winner.

Q: The same question - when Isaac Hlatshwayo left you seven days after you guided him to victory for the IBF belt?

A: Shocked and disappointed. Isaac disappointed me the most in my entire boxing life. I felt like he stabbed me in the back.

Q: Your honest opinion about the board of Boxing SA?

A: Needs to change and the sooner the better. In fact, changes at BSA are long overdue.

Q: How do you relax?

A: In the privacy of my home with my family.

Q: What beer, gin or whisky do you drink?

A: Fanta and Coke - no alcohol.

Q; What do you smoke?

A: Chesterfield - between 15 and 20 per day.

Q: If you could, who would be your guests for Christmas and why?

A: My deceased father and mother (Wendy) to see my successes, and my promoter Branco Milenkovic. He puts turkey on my table.

Q: Who are your favourite actors?

A: Will Smith and Tony Kgoroge.

Q: What is your favourite food?

A: Pap and meat.

Q: Who are your favourite musicians?

A: Lucky Dube, Brenda Fassie, Rebecca Malope and Celine Dion.

Q: Your message to South African for Christmas?

A: Take a buck out for the needy. Spend wisely because January comes straight after Christmas.

Q: When will you retire?

A: When I no longer have the passion for boxing.