By CARLO ANOLIN
Former world boxing champion Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, once an opponent of a young Manny Pacquiao, has reportedly passed away. He was 49.
According to Supersport, which was also picked up by multiple sports media outlets, Ledwaba died due to COVID-19 on his way to hospital on Friday, July 2.
The South African great, fondly known as Lehlo, would have turned 50 years old on the 27th.
Competing from 1990 to 2006, Ledwaba was known for dominating the super bantamweight division, defending the IBF title five times from 1999 to 2001.
Ledwaba, who held a 36-6-1 record on top of 23 knockouts, began his reign in May 1999 after scoring a unanimous decision victory over American pug John Michael Johnson in South Africa’s Carousel Hotel in Hammanskraal.
It was in June 2001 when a 22-year-old Pacquiao, now an eight-division world boxing champion, a future Hall of Famer, and a boxing legend hailing from the Philippines, stunned the world with a six-round technical knockout win over Ledwaba during the undercard event between Oscar De La Hoya and Javier Castillejo at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao turned the boxing world in frenzy after his superb debut on US soil, kicking off his journey to eventually become arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Since losing to Pacquiao, the South African boxing champion has won three of his last seven fights.
Ledwaba, nicknamed the “Hands of Stone,” hanged his gloves after suffering defeat at the hands of Ghanian foe Maxwell Awuku (referee technical decision) in November 2006.