“I took a chance,” Dwayne Durel says, describing the move he made five years ago when he left his native France and brought his wife and young family to Montreal. The former professional motorcyclist and Muay Thai boxer, who is set to fight for his fourth pro fight this Saturday in Montreal, switched to boxing once he arrived in Canada and soon began sharpening his ring skills at the Grant Brothers Gym. His is an unlikely story, insofar as he’d already been successful in another sport before transforming into a prizefighter. There is a connection, however, between racing motorcycles and dodging punches: danger, and the accompanying thrill it provides.
Given his relatively late start, Dwayne “Diamond” Durel is still finding himself as a pro fighter and his early career hasn’t been without hindrances. This past June he was slated to appear on a Grant Brothers-Rixa Promotions card but his match didn’t happen when a suitable opponent could not be secured. Similarly, in June of 2015, injury forced a scheduled bout to be cancelled. But Durel got an important win over Kyle Marsh last March and will be looking to build some momentum for his career when he faces Arturo Garcia Lujano, who happens to be riding a four fight win streak.
In addition to being a former motorcyclist, Durel has a background in Muay Thai, a popular martial art he pursued in Montreal, but the lack of opportunity to earn money in that discipline led him to the Grant Brothers boxing gym. While both sports require that fighters be exacting with their fists, they are starkly different forms of combat. “Boxing is a serious thing,” says Dwayne, “because you don’t have as many knees and elbows to get you out of trouble.” Unlike Muay Thai, in boxing you can’t escape pressure with kicks; your feet are useful only when they allow you to step away from danger.
For Durel, training with the Grant Brothers involves an emphasis on stance, footwork, and throwing more punches than he was accustomed. In Muay Thai, combatants often give a shot and then receive one, but this back and forth rhythm resembles more the patterns of amateur boxing than it does the pros, where fighters must put their punches together and throw combinations. Professional boxing is far more nuanced than it appears through the prism of television. Essential fundamentals like balance and foot positioning can be extremely difficult to master, and Durel admits that, when it comes to the sport’s understated, exquisitely technical side, he is still developing.
Stylistically, Durel self-identifies as a ‘fighter,’ an inclusive term that acknowledges his inexperience but emphasizes his toughness, athleticism, and willingness to learn. “I can’t say I’m a technical fighter yet because boxing is not my background and I have no amateur experience, but I can fight.”
Unsurprisingly, given his answer, Durel cites Montreal boxing legend Arturo Gatti as his hero. “His style was amazing. I love watching him fight, he inspires me a lot.” Like Gatti, Durel, whose father also used to box, says that he loves to pressure and pursue his opponents, a style more germane to boxing than Muay Thai and one which has always resonated with Montreal audiences.
Durel is driven to succeed by an inward force that’s inherent to his personality and which has been spurred on by a personal grievance. Having made his name in professional motorcycling (he has an impressive Twitter following), Dwayne’s career ended when a dispute with his manager left him without a contract. With no way to resume his career or remedy the situation, fighting became a form of therapy. “I was champion of the world,” he says. “I had really gone far; it was my life. I lost almost everything and felt that someone took it all from me. Fighting helped me take out my rage.”
His nickname, ‘Diamond’, is partly familial and partly traceable to his past as a motorcyclist, because on a bike is where he shone brightest. There is a stark juxtaposition between Durel’s identity as an athlete and his sense of self away from the gym, where he describes himself as a ‘simple’ man who enjoys spending time with his young family. But boxing is nothing if not highly dangerous, and Durel is someone for whom competitive thrills are an existential necessity. “In motorcycling you play with your life and I need that excitement in my life. I love the pressure I feel when I put on boxing gloves.”
Having flourished in another sport, only to have that career end in disappointment, Durel is now intent on finding success as a prizefighter. “I’m just trying to do my best. I already succeeded in one sport; now I’m going to succeed in this one.”
— Eliott McCormick
Photos by Manny Montreal.