Boxing legend Baby Jake dies

December 7 - As South Africans mourn the passing of one of the country’s greatest sons, yet another legend has died. Video: eNCA

JOHANNESBURG - South African Boxing legend Jacob 'Baby Jake' Matlala has died aged 51.

The four-time world champion’s death comes two days after that of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who passed away on Thursday.

Matlala, a former WBO, WBU and IBA flyweight and light flyweight world champion, battled with lung problems.

A fund had been held by Matlala’s friends in the boxing fraternity to help the boxer with his medical expenses.

The 1.47m fighter’s career spanned over 30 years during which he became an international name.

In 2002, Matlala brought the curtain down on his illustrious career in a fight attended by Nelson Mandela and actor Will Smith at Carnival City.

Matlala presented Madiba with his belt after the fight.

Boxing trainer and former welterweight champion Harold Volbrecht told eNCA that Baby Jake could be compared to South Africa’s best boxers.

Volbrecht, who had assisted Matlala in the corner on two occasions, said that Baby Jake was “a real gentleman in boxing” who will be missed in the boxing world.

He is survived by his wife Mapule and two children.

Meanwhile ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu extended the party's condolences to Matlala's family.

"Jacob 'Baby Jake' Matlala's passing is a further painful blow to the hearts of South Africans already shattered by the sad news of the death of the father of the nation -- Isithwalandwe Nelson Mandela," said Mthembu.

"With his tiny frame and lethal blows that achieved him iconic status amongst South Africans, Matlala demonstrated the greatest that a combination of a good head and a good heart could achieve.

"This is the character that Madiba embodied. He was a small giant; a small dynamite whose impact far outweighed its size."

Mthembu said Matlala's achievements were not limited to the ring where he conquered his opponents, but also outside the ring where he worked closely with government and NGOs in support of initiatives to uplift the lives of the poor.

"We are deeply saddened by the untimely death of such an amazing soul and courageous human being."


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