Frank Durst IV received a scholarship from the Augusta Boxing Club to attend the University of Tennessee in 1997. The sport took him places he never dreamed of going, but this spring, Durst returned to his roots by moving back to Augusta.
Durst, guest speaker for the fifth annual Augusta Boxing Club Scholarship Banquet at Julian Smith Bar-B-Que Pit Tuesday, relayed to the eight scholarship recipients something his grandfather told him years ago.
"I think you can obtain one thing in life that no one can ever take away from you," said Durst, who graduated from Tennessee last year with a degree in speech communication, "and that's an education."
Scholarships were awarded to boxers Ray Whitfield (to attend Augusta Tech), Kirstan Beard (North Carolina A & T), Kevin Burnett (Corner Stone Adult Education Program), Joe Maddox (Augusta Tech), David Bullard (USC Aiken), Matt Nixon (Middle Georgia College), Ashley Boulineau (Georgia Tech) and Ashby Bridges (Georgia Tech).
Durst, now 24, began boxing at age 9 as a way to control his temper.
"I was getting in fights at school," Durst said. "So my dad took me (to the Augusta Boxing Club) and said, 'maybe if he gets beat up a little bit, he'll stop fighting at school."'
Durst had a successful amateur career that produced three national championships. His career culminated in a USA Boxing No. 1 ranking for the 125-pound weight class in 1997-98.
However, Durst came to a crossroads in 1998 during a fight in Istanbul, Turkey. He tore a nerve in his elbow, interrupting his promising career.
Durst returned to the ring six months later and garnered three offers to turn professional. But his trainer, Ace Miller, suffered a heart attack and told him something that changed his life while recovering.
"(Miller) told me, 'I've never had a boxer graduate from college, and that's my lifetime dream,"' Durst said.
After consulting with welterweight world champion Vernon Forrest, Durst decided to retire from boxing two years ago. Amidst all of this, he was able to complete his degree in four years.
Durst returned to Augusta in April, and works as a commercial real estate manager.
"He's the definition of the word tough," Augusta Boxing Club director Tom Moraetes said. "He was the smallest kid, but he had the desire to be the best. He's a shining example for telling the younger kids that it's tough, but you've got to stick it out."
Reach Lane Kramer at (706) 823-3221.