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South African police have launched a manhunt for suspects who stole a boxing belt donated to Nelson Mandela by US champion Sugar Ray Leonard.

The world champion belt, worth about $3,000 (£2,500), had been on display at the Mandela House museum in Soweto.

Police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Sello told the BBC that a case of theft was opened with the police on 2 July.

It is alleged that staff who reported for duty at the famous museum on Vilakazi Street, where the anti-apartheid icon lived between 1946 and 1962, noticed that the locks had been tampered with the day before.

On investigation, it was established that the belt had been taken. It is unclear at this stage if anything else was stolen.

Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images

Mandela, pictured here in 1952, said he loved the strategy of boxingImage caption: Mandela, pictured here in 1952, said he loved the strategy of boxing

Mandela, who became South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994 after spending 27 years in jail for fighting against apartheid, was a boxing fan.

“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,” he wrote in his autobiography.

According to Mandela House, the belt was given to Mandela shortly after his release from prison by South Africa’s white-minority government in February 1990.

In June of that year in New York he met US boxers who had helped in the anti-apartheid struggle, including Sugar Ray Leonard seen below to Mandela’s right:

Nelson Mandela pictured holding hands with Mike Tyson (L) and Sugar Ray Leonard (R) in June 1990. UN Photo/Milton Grant.


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