Night gala nets Baby Jake cool R800K

2011-02-01 09:11

There was euphoria all round when more than R800 000 was raised for Jacob “Baby Jake” ­Matlala at Emperors Palace on Thursday night.

It was one of the most extraordinary and ostentatious occasions in the country’s boxing history.

The ceremony was organised to raise funds for Matlala, whose ­financial problems mean he cannot pay his astronomical medical bills.

The event, dubbed Night of the Big Little Men, was masterminded by philanthropic promoters Rodney Berman and Jeff Ellis, among others.

The audience roared with ­delight when the lean-as-a-junior flyweight Matlala was paraded like a king on a chair carried by warrior-like men.

The immaculately dressed, four-time world champion ­acknowledged the support he ­received inside the ring.

Soccer personalities swarmed Emperors Palace – you would have thought Cristiano Ronaldo was hosting a party there.

They included Lucas Radebe, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, ­Linda Buthelezi, Pitso Mosimane, ­Irvin Khoza, Trott Moloto and Vusi Lamola.

These luminaries were hosted at a table bought by Pastor Ray MacCauley.

Various items of memorabilia were ­auctioned off. Khoza was the biggest bidder of the night, ­paying R180 000 for a football shirt signed by former president Nelson ­Mandela.

The Orlando Pirates’ boss also paid R60 000 for a Manchester United jersey signed by the club’s players who were in the team that won the Champions League in 2008.

The Old Buck belt, presented to Matlala when he won the World Boxing Organisation flyweight title was snatched for R100 000.

The International Boxing Association belt, seized by Matlala when he beat Michael Carbajal, went for R90 000. Lucas Radebe donated R20 000 and Pitso Mosimane R10 000.

Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula addressed the crowd: “Baby Jake has touched our lives in all aspects,” he said

“Even the great Nelson Mandela recognised Baby Jake, the man whose life we are here to ­celebrate.”

In the ring, unheralded Gideon Buthelezi caused an upset when he seized the International Boxing Organisation junior flyweight title on a split decision from Hekkie Budler.

The main supporting bout saw heavyweight sensation Flo Simba stopping Sting Gonorenda in round five.

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