Boxer Lehlohonolo Ledwaba – a former world champion in the professional game – has died at the age of 49 after contracting COVID-19.
Known by the nickname “Hands of Stone”, Ledwaba died in his native South African on Friday (July 2) according to SuperSport.
He would have been 50 on July 27.
Ledwaba competed from 1990 to 2006, and held the International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight title from 1999 to 2001, defending it five times.
He won the vacant world title via a decision after 12 rounds against John Michael Johnson of the United States.
The South African lost it in the most famous bout of his career, against rising star Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, who went on to become one of the most celebrated boxers of the modern era.
After losing to Maxwell Awuku of Ghana in November 2006, Ledwaba retired from pro boxing with a record of 36 wins, six losses and one draw; with 23 of his victories being by knockout.
Ledwaba also held the World Boxing Union’s bantamweight crown for a short while.
Pacquiao is among those to have paid tribute to Ledwaba, writing on Twitter: “So sad to hear the passing of Lehlo Ledbawa!
“He was a true champion in and out of the ring and left behind an amazing legacy.
To date, there have been in excess of 2 million cases of COVID-19 in South Africa, resulting in the deaths of more than 61,500 people.
South Africa is going through a third wave of the pandemic and yesterday hit a new high for daily cases with 26,485.