A World Boxing Council (WBC) championship title belt given to Nelson Mandela by Sugar Ray Leonard has been stolen from a museum in South Africa.
The belt, which Leonard gifted to Mandela in 1990, was stolen from the Nelson Mandela National Museum in Soweto, South Africa, where it was prominently displayed as one of the museum’s major attractions.
The news was first reported by eNCA.
According to local law enforcement, the belt (valued at approx. $3000) was taken during a July 1 break-in. No other items were reported missing from the facility.
“There are currently no suspects arrested and the police are investigating,” Police spokeswoman, Colonel Dimakatso Sello said in a statement. “Anyone who may have information about this incident is requested to contact the police.”
Leonard gave the belt to Mandela, himself a former amateur boxer, shortly after the activist was released from prison in 1990 after spending 27 years behind bars for opposing apartheid. Mandela would go on to become South Africa’s first democratically elected leader in 1994.
Mandela’s private secretary, Zelda la Grange, recounted the boxer’s visit with Mandela years later.
“I do know that [the belt] was very valuable to him,” la Grange said. “Whenever he could he watched boxing and because it was a sport in which he participated himself also, you know he really admired people who aspired to the discipline of boxing. So, he was a great fan of Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray and him met on a few occasions, so I think it was very sentimental to him as well.”