The Tiny Titan: How Jacob Matlala Became a Boxing Legend

Who was the shortest professional boxer in history
The shortest professional boxer in history was Jacob Matlala, who stood at 4 feet 10 inches (147 cm).


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Have you ever heard of Jacob Matlala? He was the shortest professional boxer in history, standing at only 4 feet 10 inches (147 cm). But don’t let his size fool you. He was a fierce fighter who won four world titles in three different weight classes. Here’s how he did it.

Early Life and Career of Jacob Matlala

Jacob Matlala was born in 1962 in Soweto, South Africa. He grew up in a poor family and faced discrimination under the apartheid regime. He started boxing at the age of 10, inspired by his father who was also a boxer. He quickly showed talent and determination, despite his small stature. He turned pro in 1980, at the age of 18.

Rise to Fame

Matlala’s first major breakthrough came in 1993, when he won the WBO flyweight title by defeating Pat Clinton in Scotland. He defended his title twice before losing it to Alberto Jimenez in Mexico. He then moved up to junior flyweight and won the WBO title again in 1995, beating Paul Weir in Glasgow. He made history by becoming the first South African to win world titles in two weight divisions.

The next year, he faced Michael Carbajal, a legendary American boxer who was considered the best junior flyweight of all time. Matlala stunned the world by knocking out Carbajal in the seventh round, becoming the IBF and IBA champion. He also earned a record purse of $1 million for the fight, the highest ever for a boxer of his size.

Final Years and Legacy

Matlala continued to fight until 2002, when he was 40 years old. He won his fourth and final world title in 1997, the WBU flyweight belt, which he defended six times. He retired with a record of 53 wins, 13 losses and 2 draws. He was widely respected and admired for his skill, courage and charisma. He was nicknamed “Baby Jake” by his fans, but also “The Tiny Titan” by the media.

Matlala died in 2013, at the age of 51, after a long illness. He was honored with a state funeral and a tribute from Nelson Mandela, who called him “a hero and a role model”. He is regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time, and an inspiration for many people who face challenges because of their size or background.