Boxing world mourns loss of Baby Jake

The legendary boxer passed away in a Johannesburg hospital on Saturday morning.

Legendary boxer Baby Jake Matlala passed away in a Johannesburg hospital on Saturday morning. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Politicians, the boxing world and sportsmen in South Africa are mourning the loss of Baby Jake Matlala who passed away on Saturday morning.

His death comes two days after the death of former president Nelson Mandela.

The world champion boxer, the shortest in history at just 1,47 metres, passed away in a Johannesburg hospital at the age of 51.

Matlala won four flyweight titles from the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), World Boxing Union (WBU) and International Boxing Association (IBA).

He is survived by his wife and two children, who have asked for privacy while they mourn his loss.

Several neighbours and friends have visited their Winchester Hills home since receiving the news.

Those who spoke to the media described him as a great legend and a humble family man who would be dearly missed.

The ANC paid tribute the legendary boxer, praising not only his illustrious career in the ring but also the work he did to uplift the poor.

The ruling party's Keith Khoza says they are saddened by his passing.

"He passed on just a few days after Nelson Mandela. As we are trying to get to grips with one icon, another falls."

In 2002, Matlala presented Madiba with his world title belt.

Former boxer Brian Mitchell says, "It's shocking to think that he died a day or two after the great Nelson Mandela. It's shocking because I was at boxing tournaments with Baby Jake Matlala and Nelson Mandela. Matlala was a legend to SA boxing."

Bafana Bafana Captain Itumeleng Khune says mourning the death of both Mandela and Matlala is utterly sad.

He says Matlala helped young people believe in themselves.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula says, "It is sad, sad that Baby Jake has left us in the same period that our father Nelson Mandela has left us. Baby Jake's passing on is sad news for the Republic. We will always remember him as a champion who gave it his all."

Just the other day I spoke to Baby Jake, and he was alive and well. #RIPBabyJake another legend pass away... Condolences 2 your family