Johannesburg – South Africa is mourning the death of another icon. This time it’s Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala.
The former world boxing champion died at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital on Saturday morning at the age of 51 from a recurring lung problem.
His death came two days after that of Nelson Mandela.
On Sunday afternoon, a number of people arrived at the sportsman’s home in Winchester Hills, south of Joburg.
Family spokesman Giet Khosa, who is also the Rhema Church spokesman and chief executive, said Matlala’s death came as a shock.
“It is not easy, but the support and messages have been welcomed… And soften our hearts.”
He described the boxer as a loving, supportive and kind man.
“He had a pure heart. Jakes was always available to help the next person and did a lot of charity work.
“He was always there for others, and that is what we all going to miss,” said Khosa.
“Just when the country is still reeling from the news of Nelson Mandela’s death, we are dealt yet another blow,” said Gauteng MEC of Sports Lebogang Maile, who will pay the Matlala family a visit.
“In the space of two days we have lost two of our treasured national assets.
“We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to his family, friends, fans and the boxing fraternity.
“He has made a significant contribution in the boxing fraternity in this country. We will always remember him fondly and may his soul rest in peace,” said Maile.
National Freedom Party president Zanele Magwaza Msibi, said :”My condolences go out to his wife Mapule, his children and the rest of the Matlala family.
“We thank him for flying the South African flag high in the boxing arena and may his soul rest in peace.”
Matlala will be buried on Friday. The funeral service will be held at the Rhema Church in Randburg at 10am.
Sapa reports that Parliament sent its condolences yesterday to the family and friends.
“Parliament extends condolences on the passing of our flyweight boxing world champion, Baby Jake Matlala, just two days after Madiba, a Baby Jake fan and one-time boxer himself, left us,” it said in a statement.
Issued by National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces chairperson Mninwa Mahlangu, and their deputies, it noted that Matlala had been the only South African boxer to win four world titles.
According to the statement, Matlala retired from boxing aged 42, after a professional career spanning 22 years.
“His retirement came after winning his last title fight, against an opponent 11 years younger than him, watched ringside by Madiba. After the fight, Jake presented his World Boxing Union belt to Madiba.
“Our thoughts are with Mr Matlala’s family and friends as they come to terms with his passing.”
The Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation has sent messages of condolences to Matlala’s family.