By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
As the lifetime of former South African President and anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela draws to a close in a vegetative state close to his 95th birthday on July 18, 2013, Real Combat Media would like to remember Mandela for his contributions to the world of boxing. Mandela spent 27 years in prison to end racism.
Affectionally known as ‘Madiba’, many people do not know Mandela was also a heavyweight boxer and a discipline athlete. Even in his small prison cell on Robben’s Island, Mandela maintained a strict daily physical fitness regimen which enabled him to survive lengthy captivity under the worst of circumstances.
From his biography, ‘Long Walk To Freedom’, Mandela relates “I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match. Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, color, and wealth are irrelevant . I never did any real fighting (again) after I entered politics. My main interest was in training. I found the rigorous exercise to be an excellent outlet for tension and stress. After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter. It was a way of losing myself in something that was not the struggle. After an evening’s workout, I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again (against apartheid).”
Mandela is a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1985 while still incarcerated.
His wife Graca Michel stated “Although Madiba may be uncomfortable, he is fine,” in contradiction to other reports on Mandela’s worsening ‘perilous’ condition. President Barack Obama visited Mandela’s prison cell on Robben’s Island.
Meanwhile, in a family feud, the South African courts ordered Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela to return the bodies of three of Mandela’s children to his home village of Qunu to be reburied with their father Nelson, from Mandela’s homestead village of Mvezo, where the bodies were taken and buried.