SA rallies behind Baby Jake

2010-10-29 16:36

Johannesburg - Heavyweight prospect Flo Simba will fight at Emperors Palace in January in a tournament in aid of former world champion Jacob (Baby Jake) Matlala.

Matlala is back at home and making a steady recovery after three weeks in hospital with double pneumonia but he was still receiving oxygen this week, Golden Gloves promoter Rodney Berman said on Friday.

Berman staged 12 of the four-times world champion's title fights and described the 48-year-old Matlala as having "the second most recognisable face in South Africa".

"We would have liked to stage this benefit tournament sooner, but the logistics make it impossible. It will go on towards the end of January," he said.

Berman intends to assemble a star-studded bill at the venue near Johannesburg. Many leading fighters are ready to take part.

Unbeaten Simba is considered South Africa's finest heavyweight prospect since Gerrie Coetzee.

Matlala retired from the ring in 2002 after a career of 68 fights that included 54 wins, 12 losses and two draws.

His 28-year boxing career began when he was 12 years old. Some of his best performances came during the twilight of his career.

His last fight, in defence of the WBU junior flyweight title against Colombian Juan Herrara, was a landmark in SA boxing, with both former president Nelson Mandela and Hollywood star Will Smith in attendance.

"It is gratifying to see the country rallying around the little man with the big heart," said Berman, describing the response to Baby Jake's plight as "overwhelming".

Rhema Bible Church, of which Matlala is a member, is helping him pay his medical bills.

"Baby Jake is a member of our church and he has helped us a lot with a number of our charity programmes," Rev Ray McCauley said on Friday.

"We have used his stature as a sports icon to rally support for our Hands of Compassion's [Rhema's social responsibility programme] initiatives," he said.

"We need to plough back in his life and give him all the necessary support."

A lot more money was needed, said Berman, adding that, with the help of the many volunteers "we will do what we can to ease the burden of the little dynamo who made such a major impact in South African sport".


  • Philip - 2010-10-29 17:26

    I am gutted to see another prominent South African completely broke and in dire circumstances. Where are all those people who have profited from Baby Jake's career and good name. We need to take far better care of icons like Baby Jake who have given so must to the sporting brand of South Africa. My son was asked to select a iconic South African as a school project some years ago and he selected Baby Jake. This guy is a real champion and the thought that he is penniless so soon after his career is disturbing. Where can I contribute....and I challenge other South Africans to open their wallets.

  • Chucky - 2010-10-29 17:31

    Baby Jake is a national hero.. he showed in the ring how much heart we South Africans have ..any assistance must be given to help..

  • Anderjan - 2010-10-29 17:34

    Your fights made me proud and gave me enjoyment. All I got to give is my support and best wishes.....

  • VinChainSaw - 2010-10-29 17:40

    Flo and Semenya brother and sister?

  • jonno - 2010-10-29 18:21

    call a spade a spade- aids is a terrible thing

  • Gerhard - 2010-10-29 19:03

    This is some sad news indeed, a true goliath in SA sport. Get better soon Baby Jake! Your still the best!

  • JAA - 2010-10-30 02:51

    What did he do with all his winnings??? Other boxers of his calibre have good lives. He earned more money than most of us! SA people's problem -I waste mine, somebody else will have to help when I need money. Welfare state starts here! I do feel sorry for the guy about his health problems, but the money problems are his own fault. What cars did he drive??

  • Ben - 2010-10-30 06:36

    Because he was famous he expects everyone to help, he had his fame and made lots om money, wasted it and now want help. What about the millions of other people in need who never had fame, let him go to goverment hospitals like all other people.

  • ODWA - 2010-10-30 07:38

    Jake get well soon. South Africa needs you.

  • vusi - 2010-11-01 11:07

    i personally think that all these south african millionars should have hand in this matter of baby jake matlala and stop spending all there money on there girls and expensive clubs and wines

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