11 December 2013

South Africa: Farewell, Baby Jake


If there was one man who could perhaps have matched the late great Nelson Mandela as the peoples' champion in the 1990s it was Baby Jake Matlala, dwarfed in physical stature by the first democratically elected president, but fit to stand tall next to Madiba as one of South Africa's greatest heroes.

The 1.47m Matlala - the shortest world boxing champion ever - was the WBO and IBA flyweight champion, and WBU and IBA light flyweight champion - and the country was still deep in mourning over Madiba's passing when the 51-year-old passed away due to a lung infection associated with pneumonia.

The Soweto boxer's death is thus eternally linked to Mandela's, which is fitting because Madiba was a great fan of the diminutive but brave boxer. The president was ringside when Matlala fought for the last time, knocking out Colombia's Juan Herrera at Carnival City in 2002.

The great boxing fan - he never actually stepped into the ring and fought but used the sport as a training tool - was presented with the WBO light flyweight belt after the bout by Matlala.

Mandela made no secret of Baby Jake being his favourite boxer and the...

Copyright © 2013 Daily Maverick. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.