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Mandela's favourite boxer Matlala dies

Monday, December 09, 2013

JOHANNESBURG - South African boxer Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala, a four-time world champion at flyweight and junior flyweight and one of Nelson Mandela's favourite fighters, has died. He was 51.

Matlala's death on Saturday was announced by family spokesman Ray McCauley.

Former WBO champion Matlala died two days after Mandela, one of the fighter's biggest fans.

Mandela attended Matlala's last bout in 2002, when 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 1.48 metres (4ft 10in), Matlala's disregard for his own size and ferocious punching speed made him one of South Africa's favourite sportsmen.

He won the WBO flyweight, WBO junior flyweight, IBA light flyweight and WBU junior flyweight belts in a 22-year career.