Boxing champion belt given to Mandela stolen in South Africa

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AP1987

FILE Sugar Ray Leonard, U.S.A., holds the middleweight championship belt above his head after defeating Marvin Hagler in a split decision to win the title in Las Vegas, Nev., April 6, 1987. A World Boxing Council championship belt belonging to former South African President Nelson Mandela has been stolen from a museum in Soweto. The belt was given to Mandela by American boxing legend Leonard during one of his visits to South Africa. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon/File)

JOHANNESBURG – A World Boxing Council championship belt belonging to former South African President Nelson Mandela has been stolen from a museum in Soweto, according to police.

The belt was given to Mandela by American boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard during one of his visits to South Africa.

It was one of many artifacts inside the Nelson Mandela National Museum, a major tourist attraction for local and international travelers.

Mandela, a former amateur boxer, revered the belt and it was prominently displayed in the museum in a house where he once lived in Soweto township, west of Johannesburg.

The museum is one of the top attractions on Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to claim two Nobel laureates as former residents. Mandela and the late anti-apartheid stalwart Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived on the street.

According to police, the belt was stolen when thieves broke into the museum, popularly referred to as Mandela House, and the theft was reported to police on July 1.

No suspects have been arrested and police have appealed for any information related to the theft, police spokeswoman Dimakatso Sello said.

Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected leader in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his battle against apartheid, the brutal system of white minority rule in effect in the country from 1948 to 1994.