It's the Mitchell vs Durandt grudge match
Saturday’s fight at Carnival City between World Boxing Union (WBU) featherweight champion Cassius Baloyi and WBU junior-lightweight champion Phillip Ndou is not only a contest between the two popular Northern Province boxers, it’s also a grudge match between their trainers.
Baloyi’s trainer Brian Mitchell and Ndou’s Nic Durandt are known as the best motivators in local rings.
Both place a high value on conditioning and dedication as building blocks for success and both have complete confidence that their fighter will prevail.
Adding to the grudge element is the fact that Baloyi was previously trained by Durandt and it was he who led the undefeated fighter to his first world title.
Following an incident in which Durandt was accused of making racial comments and was pushed out of the sport for a time, Baloyi left his camp along with most of his fighters to train under Elias Shabalala, who was Durandt’s assistant trainer.
One boxer remained at Durandt’s side, however, and that was Ndou. “When Philip stayed with me, I promised him that I would make him a world champion,” says Durandt, “and I’ve fulfilled that promise.”
Following a short stay in the Shabalala camp, Baloyi moved to Mitchell. Under the guidance of the former junior-lightweight champion Baloyi blossomed. Under Durandt’s guidance he had been dubbed “shy guy”, Mitchell turned him into “the hitman”.
This change was not only in name, but in style as well. Baloyi changed from being a cautious boxer into a focused fighter with impressive punching power.
“I was in Baloyi’s corner for the majority of his fights,” says Durandt. “I don’t think Brian could have changed him that much. I know him and I know Ndou. They used to spar together. Baloyi couldn’t stand Ndou’s power then and he won’t stand it now.”
Mitchell disagrees: “I think Cassius is the best pound-for-pound boxer in the country. He can box and he can fight. He would have beaten Ndou two years ago if they had fought. Now he’s even better than he was then so it’ll even be easier for him.”
The fact that Ndou has won all of his bouts via the short route has deterred many a fighter from stepping into the ring with him. His demolitions, although not always pleasant to watch, have usually been delivered with chilling effect. His title-winning stoppage of Carlos Rios in July had the Argentinian out cold.
“Phillip can box beautifully if he wants to,” says Durandt. “But we don’t expend our energy. We do what we need to do so that he can land that one punch which will end the fight. It doesn’t matter if Cassius out-boxes or out-moves Phillip. The fight is 12 rounds and sooner or later Phillip will land and, when he does, it’s all over.”