Mandela the Fighter

Posted December 8th, 2013 at 3:59 pm (UTC-4)

Mandela Boxing PicNelson Mandela fought for freedom and justice for all, a lifelong battle that was fueled, in part, by his love for boxing.

Mandela was an amateur boxer in his younger days and he credited the sport with helping instill discipline and the will to withstand the blows of hatred and a long imprisonment.

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, the anti-apartheid icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote how a daily boxing program helped him cope with the demands and the pressures of the revolutionary movement in South Africa.

“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.”

Nelson Mandela spars playfully with Muhammad Ali

Nelson Mandela spars playfully with Muhammad Ali

In taking up the fight, Mandela viewed boxing, in its purest form, as free from prejudice and discrimination.

“Boxing is egalitarian,” wrote Mandela. “In the ring, rank, age, color and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling your opponent, probing his strengths and weaknesses, you are not thinking about his color or social status.”

Boxing great Muhammad Ali, a hero to many in his own right, met Mandela several times. In a statement released through his foundation, Ali said Mandela “was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge.”

Mandela also met several other boxing champions after being released from prison in 1990, including former world heavyweight titleholders Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

Mandela met Lewis in April of 2001, shortly after he lost his world title belts to American Hasim Rahman, who knocked out Lewis in the fifth round during a championship fight in South Africa.

“I know the history of boxing,” said Mandela during his meeting with Lewis, “and I know the quality of champions.”

The late, great champion of freedom and justice said the best fighters have the ability to overcome adversity and prevail, and he predicted with proper training Lewis could reclaim the world heavyweight title.

Seven months later, Lennox Lewis knocked out Hasim Rahman in the fourth round in their rematch in Las Vegas to regain the world heavyweight boxing championship.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

5 responses to “Mandela the Fighter”

  1. The Cinderella Man and Mandela are celebrating at the greatest banquet of all now!

  2. Sir Joshua Zenit says:

    Wow! I never knew Madiba packed some punch as well.

  3. Sonny, Season’s Greeting from Imo State,Nigeria.Its interesting to know that Mandela was a boxer and had a great interest in the punching game.Looking at him in this picture with Lennox Lewis, tells everything.The whole world is mourning the death of a great man.Am deeply touched after watching a series of documentary on his life and times.He exhibited an uncommon courage and patience in his long fight for freedom.He will be greatly missed.But his ideals and principles will inspire and encourage many who are in the face of difficult situations around the world.Let me use his native language and tell him “Lala Ngoxolo Madiba” meaning “Rest in peace Madiba”.

  4. Sonny Young says:

    Thank you, Magnus, Sir Joshua & Angelo for your comments!

  5. Paul Sisco says:

    Well done Sonny,… Madiba’s legacy benefits all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

Brighten your day by tuning in the Sonny Side of Sports!

» Listen to the latest show


Latest Videos



When you hear the VOA identification press 60

Postal Mail
Voice of America
Room 1613
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237