Mthakathi was one of a kind

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

The un­timely death of renowned boxing trainer Nick “Mthakathi” Du­randt has left the coun­try and the boxing fra­ter­nity reel­ing.

Mzansi’s most successful boxing men­tor, Du­randt failed to an­swer the prover­bial fi­nal bell af­ter be­ing killed in a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent in Clarens in the Free State on Fri­day.

Although he had not boxed him­self, Du­randt en­joyed a sparkling career, hav­ing trained an un­prece­dented 95 South African cham­pi­ons in all 17 weight di­vi­sions, as well as 38 world ti­tle hold­ers and 27 in­ter­na­tional king­pins through all the lead­ing sanc­tion­ing boxing bod­ies glob­ally.

Box­ers such as Thu­lani “Su­gar­boy” Malinga, Isaac Hlatshwayo, Phillip “Time Bomb” Ndou, Cas­sius “Hit­man” Baloyi, Zolani “Last­born” Tete and Si­lence Mabuza trained and won ti­tles un­der Du­randt’s tute­lage.

Be­sides his stel­lar ros­ter of fight­ers, Du­randt also trained in­ter­na­tional superstars such as Os­car De La Hoya, Evan­der Holy­field and Roy Jones Jr. He also helped train US boxer Hasim Rah­man, who knocked out three-time world heavy­weight cham­pion Len­nox Lewis at Car­ni­val City in the fa­mous Blik­sem in Brak­pan fight in 2001.

Mthakathi was a flam­boy­ant, nonon­sense and frank per­son­al­ity, who was widely re­spected by fight­ers, train­ers and man­agers from dif­fer­ent camps, as well as by boxing jour­nal­ists for the dis­ci­pline he in­stilled in his charges.

He was also a ring tac­ti­cian of note. When Du­randt shouted in­struc­tions from the cor­ner as one of his charges was slug­ging it out in the ring, peo­ple watch­ing the bout would be en­thralled by the way in which Du­randt’s fighter would come out smok­ing and win big.

One such clas­sic case was when he helped Baloyi lift the World Boxing Union and In­ter­na­tional Boxing Fed­er­a­tion feath­er­weight ti­tles, which the boxer de­fended suc­cess­fully many times.

Box­ers from the East­ern Cape would trek to Jo­han­nes­burg just to be part of his sta­ble.

For all his strict ways, like many shrewd train­ers, Du­randt had a good heart and was liked by many boxing scribes. I saw this side of him while on a work as­sign­ment with his camp in Reno in Ne­vada in the US in 2006.

Mabuza was to meet Mex­i­can Rafael Márquez at the In­ter­na­tional Boxing Or­gan­i­sa­tion and In­ter­na­tional Boxing Fed­er­a­tion ban­tamweight cham­pi­onships. Be­fore the fight, Du­randt let me stay close to Mabuza’s camp so that I could get all the scoops, to the cha­grin of the in­ter­na­tional me­dia.

Although Mabuza was knocked out in the fourth round, Du­randt showed hu­mil­ity by inviting me to the boxer’s dress­ing room after­wards to give me ex­clu­sive in­sight on why his man lost.

That is how forth­right Mthakathi was.

Now he has gone to the be­yond to set up a train­ing camp with the likes of Ginger Tsha­bal­ala, his for­mer fighter. The late light heavy­weight king­pin was killed in central Jo­han­nes­burg in 2001.

Mthakathi an­nounced his re­tire­ment as a trainer in May last year, but con­tin­ued to run several gyms in Jo­han­nes­burg. He told me of his dis­il­lu­sion­ment with the way in which boxing au­thor­i­ties were run­ning the pro­fes­sion com­pared with pre­vi­ous years, when there was an abun­dance of tour­na­ments.

He handed over the reins to his son Damian, who over­sees the boxing gyms in Jo­han­nes­burg. Damian was with his dad when he died.

When Mthakathi called it quits, he said he would fo­cus on head­ing a mo­tor­bike club. May his soul rest in peace.

Mean­while, Kaizer Chiefs an­nounced via Twit­ter yes­ter­day that their most successful coach of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jeff Butler, had died.

The tweet read: “Our deep­est con­do­lences to the fam­ily & friends of our for­mer coach‚ Jeff Butler, af­ter pass­ing on this morn­ing. May his soul RIP #Khosi4Life.”

The Premier Soc­cer League ded­i­cated a minute’s si­lence in hon­our of Butler in last night’s Ned­bank Cup quar­ter­fi­nal be­tween Amakhosi and Su­per­Sport United at the FNB Sta­dium.

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

TEAM WORK Nick Du­randt with his son Damian

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