It was no secret that Nelson Mandela was a fan of the fistic arts and while he never crossed the ropes as a professional, his battles took place on a bigger stage as he fired off verbal jabs at a system of oppression before finally delivering the final telling blow with his election as President in 1994.
There’s an iconic statue in central Johannesburg that depicts Mandela as a boxer, an image that has been captured many times before in photographs with the great man posing in his fighter’s stance and donning the gloves.
There was a touching moment back in 2002 when one of South African boxing’s most famous sons, ”Baby” Jake Matlala, left the ring at Carnival City as a victor over Juan Herrera for the WBU junior-flyweight title.
Instead of heading straight back to the dressing room to begin celebrations, Matlala went over to Mandela, who was ringside for the occasion and handed him the world title belt he had just secured.
There’s a photo of Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela with fists clenched when boxing’s greatest ever fighter met the statesman when visiting South Africa back in 1993 and the heavyweight great joined the world in paying homage.
Nelson Mandela was indeed a heavyweight champion not only of South Africa, but of the world.