(AP) Boxer Jacob Matlala, 51, a Mandela favorite, dies
Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala, a four-time world champion in the flyweight and junior flyweight divisions and one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite fighters, has died. He was 51.
The death of the South African boxer Saturday was announced by family spokesman Ray McCauley.
Matlala died two days after Mandela, who attended Matlala’s last bout in 2002. At the time, the boxer gave the former president one of his belts.
Matlala’s former promoter, Rodney Berman, wrote on Twitter: “Another great fighter has died … Go well little man, you’ll be missed.”
Standing just 4-foot-10 1/2, Matlala’s disregard for his size and ferocious punching speed made him one of South Africa’s favorite athletes. During a 22-year career, he won flyweight and junior flyweight belts for the WBO as well as the IBA light flyweight title and WBU junior flyweight crown.
The Mandela family reached out to the boxer’s family. According to reports, “Madiba’s grandson Ndaba says although they’re in their own period of grief, they share the Matlala family’s pain.”
“As we mourn for our grandfather, it has also come to our attention that another hero has passed away. On behalf of our family we’d like to send our condolences and heartfelt message to Baby Jake’s family,” he said.
Mandela attended Matlala’s last bout in 2002, and the boxer gave Mandela one of his title belts.
Breitbart Sports contributed to this article