The Board and staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation are saddened at the passing of Muhammad Ali. Our thoughts are with Ali's family and friends at this difficult time.
Ali was a legend, both as a sporting great and as a public figure willing to make sacrifices for his beliefs. He will be missed around the world.
“Nelson Mandela, a boxing enthusiast most of his life, acknowledged Ali as his boxing hero. Madiba had great respect for his legacy and spoke with admiration of Ali’s achievements,” said Sello Hatang CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
It was no accident that a photograph of the two men together was positioned right next to Madiba's desk in his office at the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Nor is it surprising that in Madiba's latter years his favourite book at the office was an autographed copy of the outsize Ali biography, “Greatest of All Time”.
Nelson Mandela on boxing:
“There is one regret I have had throughout my life: that I never became the boxing heavyweight champion of the world.”
Speaking at an event with President Bill Clinton, Washington DC, USA, 1990
“Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant. When you are circling your opponent, probing his strengths and weaknesses, you are not thinking about his colour or social status.”
From Long Walk to Freedom, 1994
“In its finest form, boxing is an art, a huge spectator interest activity and in many cases a ticket out of poverty.”
Speaking at the 36th Annual World Boxing Council Convention, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 October 1998