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Matlala, champion who counted Mandela among fans, dies

December 07, 2013 23:01 IST

South African boxer Jacob 'Baby Jake' Matlala, the shortest world champion whose fortunes were closely followed by Nelson Mandela, died on Saturday at the age of 51, local media reported.

The 1.47 metre tall light-flyweight champion was a potent symbol of reconciliation in post-Apartheid South Africa, where his fortunes were keenly followed.

Matlala won titles under three different sanctioning bodies, the last of which at the age of 42 was watched ringside by Mandela.

A keen boxing fan, former president Mandela died on Thursday aged 95.

Matlala, who retired because he said he had "run out of small people to fight", had suffered from poor health and money problems in recent years. Benefactors raised funds to pay his medical bills and other debts.

Image: Jacob Matlala

Photograph: Reuters

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