Boxer Jacob Matlala, a Mandela favorite, dies

South African boxer Jacob ”Baby Jake” Matlala, a four-time world champion at flyweight and junior flyweight and one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite fighters, has died. He was 51.

Matlala’s death Saturday was announced by family spokesman Ray McCauley.

Former WBO champion Matlala died two days after Mandela, one of the fighter’s biggest fans. Mandela attended Matlala’s last bout in 2002, when the boxer gave the former president one of his belts.

Matlala’s former promoter, Rodney Berman, wrote on Twitter: ”Another great fighter has died … Go well little man, you’ll be missed.”

Standing just 4-foot-10 1/2 (1.48 meters), Matlala’s disregard for his own size and ferocious punching speed made him one of South Africa’s favorite sportsmen. He won the WBO flyweight, WBO junior flyweight, IBA light flyweight and WBU junior flyweight belts in a 22-year career.