nelson mandela boxing

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Our sports correspondent reports from the front lines in the wake of an icons death

The late Nelson Mandela was globally regarded as a man who was selfless and who fought for freedom. Although Mandela was a fighter and championed the cause of apartheid in South Africa, he was also amateur boxer himself and a huge fan of the sport. According to journalist, Kevin McCallum, Nelson Mandela was in attendance at Carnival City to watch four-time world boxing champion Baby Jake Matlala’s last fight in 2002. After the bout Matlala awarded his belt to Mandela.


Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson tweeted last week: “I’m hearing about Nelson Mandela’s death while on African soil in Oran, Algeria. Sending prayers to Mandela’s family.”

Middleweight boxer Bernard Hopkins is known for striking fear in his opponents. With a career record of 54-6, The Executioner has beaten the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. He and Mandela share two things in common: they both boxed and did time in jail. Hopkins changed his background picture on his phone to honor Nelson Mandela. “You know my history, you know my past,” Hopkins told The Source last week. “I used to keep my jail mugshot on my phone screen to remind me. I took it off.”

Former Undisputed World Welterweight Champion Zab Judah liked what Mandela stood for. Before his fight with Paulie Malignaggi at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Judah was reflective. “Nelson Mandela was a powerful person,” Judah told The Source. “He stood for a lot of great things in life. It’s sad to see him gone. I think he stood for positive and influential things throughout the world.”

“He was the first Obama,” former WBC, WBA and IBF champ Antonio Tarver told the Source. “That man was President of South Africa. So he did some unbelievable things way before his time. And we’re just now getting hip to it with the Obama situation. But Mandela was the first. He was the first black man to ever really make it to that pike. Everything that he’s accomplished in his career has been for the betterment of all races. My hat goes off to him. 95 years old? He’s lived a beautiful life!”

This Christmas, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba will hit movie screens. The biopic was directed by Emmy nominated director Justin Chadwick and embodies the struggle the Mandela’s faced during the apartheid era in South Africa. The film highlights Mandela’s journey from his childhood growing up in a village in Africa through the later years of his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Antonio Tarver got a chance to check out a movie screening. “A lot of that stuff we didn’t know he was involved in,” said Tarver.

Tarver also took notice to Elba’s growth and versatility in the film. “They’re grooming him to be the next Denzel,” he said. “He’s a good artist. I’ve been following him for a long time. He actually DJ’ed my party in LA so it was cool to have him involved in that.

Nelson Mandela’s funeral will take place in South Africa on Sunday. With the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s freedom coming upon us in 2014, Mandela’s legacy will live long beyond.

-Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB)