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Sam fights for Matlala

South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam is forging ahead with plans to preserve Jacob ÔÇ£Baby JakeÔÇØ Matlala’s legacy and will be among the throngs of people who will bid for the four-time world champion’s belts when they go under the hammer at a fundraising event for the boxer on 27 January at Emperors Palace.

The New Age newspaper reports that Sam announced at the weekend that Sascoc intended to buy the belts before they were to be auctioned at the fundraising tournament, but Golden Gloves boss Rodney Berman stopped him in his tracks, saying that the belts were not for sale out of hand and would have to be auctioned.

ÔÇ£I spoke to Rodney Berman and he stopped me in regard to purchasing the belts so that they can remain in the Matlala family. They (Golden Gloves Promotions) have already started the process for the auction but we have bought a table and we will be there to bid. We are determined to do everything in our power to get hold of them,ÔÇØ Sam said.

The pint-sized former champion recently decided to donate two of his title belts amid an array of goods to be auctioned at the event. The auction forms part of the Big Little Men Tournament, proceeds of which will go to Matlala.

In a call to Berman, Sam said he was prepared to pay ÔÇ£whatever it takesÔÇØ to ensure that Matlala’s legacy remains in his homeland.

However, Berman was quick to point out that the belts would be auctioned rather than sold, and Sam, on behalf of Sascoc, was welcome to make a bid. ÔÇ£The interest in the tournament is unbelievable,ÔÇØ said the Golden Gloves boss, ÔÇ£and this is indicative of it. I know Jake is gratified. We’re hoping to raise a good sum of money for him.ÔÇØ

Matlala’s wife, Mapule, had welcomed the gesture by Sascoc to purchase the belts, but now she hopes that Sascoc will emerge victorious in the auction so that the belts will remain in the family.

ÔÇ£It is wonderful that Sascoc is trying to keep Jake’s legacy in the country. I hope that their bids in the auction will be the winning ones. It will show that the nation is indeed behind Jake,ÔÇØ she said.

Sam indicated that the initial decision to purchase the belts emanated from a fear that a wealthy foreigner would buy the belts and they would be lost to the country and the Matlala family forever. ÔÇ£At some stage we will return them to the family. So right now the aim is to raise money for him,ÔÇØ he said.

There will be a remarkable lineup of memorabilia on auction, including rare items like an autographed Madonna guitar, plus gloves signed by pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.

The bill is topped by Hekkie Budler’s IBO title defence against Gideon Buthelezi.