Punching above his weight

Like father like son; The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

These idioms came to mind while watching Damien Durandt yelling and calling the shots during a training session.

The 25-year-old went about like a seasoned trainer as he shouted at Jackson Chauke and Marcus Lebogo, telling them what to do and when to do it.

Damien has taken over the reins from his father Nick, and hopes to maintain a legacy of producing world champions.

Durandt senior retired in May after nearly 30 years of mentoring and managing fighters. But the young trainer believes he is up to the task of churning out more global titlists as a mentor himself.

Damien claims to have obtained his training licence at the age of 14. He is currently in charge of 12 fighters at their new gym in Linksfield, north of Johannesburg. They include Daniel Bruwer (light-heavyweight); Chauke (flyweight); Lebogo (super lightweight); Ilunga Makabu (cruiserweight) and Emmany Kalombo (lightweight).

Unfortunately, Durandt started on a low note when Bruwer lost the WBA Pan-African light heavyweight championship to Thomas Oosthuizen last weekend. But on a positive note, Kalombo – who also featured on the bill – defeated Phakamani Mthethwa by a first-round knockout in their lightweight four-round bout.

But Durandt takes Bruwer’s defeat graciously as he admits his boxer lost to a better opponent on the night.

“Look, my man wasn’t in great shape compared with Oosthuizen. Before Saturday, Bruwer had not fought for two years. But I guess this is not an excuse because this was my first experience in the corner in charge of a fighter,” says Durandt.

“We will be back with bang next time and I promise you Bruwer will be best.”

He said he was pleased with Kalombo’s showing, saying he had a bright future.

A week earlier, Durandt was over the moon about the prospect of being in the corner for his maiden fight.

“Look, boxing runs in our family. I’ve been in boxing my whole life. I was born into boxing and it’s time to produce my own world boxing champs,” he said.

“I’ve decided to take over from my dad as a trainer with the aim of producing more world beaters.”

He admits that filling Nick’s “big boots” is a tough task, but he will make the grade.

“Mthakathi” as Durandt senior is known in the pugilistic fraternity, produced more title holders than any other trainer in the history of South African boxing.

He produced 38 world title holders, 28 international and 97 South African kingpins.

“I’ve inherited a stable that has no champion after my dad retired. This is a tough task, but I’m going to ensure that I keep the home fires burning by making more world title holders soon.”

Damien refuses to say who among his charges is the best, only that they all have the “potential to rule the world one day”.

Despite his young age and tiny frame, Damien has always been deeply involved in the sport. He used to hoist the championship belts of Nick’s fighters in the ring after they were declared winners.

But seeing him take his fighters through their paces, yelling instructions to psyche his men up, shows that he means business.

He sounds exactly like his more accomplished father during the height of his career.

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