Manny Pacquiao pays tribute as breakthrough foe Lehlo Ledwaba, 49, dies

Lehlo Ledwaba Manny Pacquiao

HBO

A little-known Manny Pacquiao stepped in at late notice in 2001 to face reigning IBF super-bantamweight champion Lehlo Ledwaba. That night was historic.

Pacquaio scored a sixth-round stoppage in a breakthrough victory that sparked an unbelievable record-breaking affinity with Las Vegas and the United States.

Ledwaba, who fought only seven times after the defeat, losing four times, was always credited with paving the way for a great.

WBN is sad to learn this weekend that Ledwaba passed away at the tender age of 49. His untimely death is due to the current Covid-19 virus sweeping the world.

Manny Pacquiao tribute

Ever humble and grateful, Pacquiao didn’t hesitate to pay tribute to his ex-opponent even in triumph.

“So sad to hear of the passing of Lehlo Ledwaba,” said the “Pacman.”

“He was a true champion in and out of the ring and left behind an amazing legacy. RIP champ!”

Full name Lehlohonolo, Ledwaba died in hospital on Friday in his native South Africa. He made five successful defenses of the IBF strap he eventually passed on to Manny Pacquiao.

Lehlo Ledwaba career

Turning pro in 1990, Ledwaba suffered an early draw before a loss in his first three years on the paid circuit. It wasn’t until 1996 that he would make his mark on the sport.

Facing South African super-bantamweight champion Vuyisile Tinga at Don Mateman Hall in Johannesburg, Ledwaba blasted out the ruler in less than one round.

A fringe world title victory followed for “Hands of Stone” before three more defenses of the SA belt. In 1998, and enjoying a five-year winning streak, an inevitable IBF eliminator came calling.

Going up against Arnel Barotillo, Ledwaba won on points and bided his time for a shot at the coveted red belt.

In 1999, Ledwaba got pitted against John Michael Johnson for the vacant strap, winning another decision on home soil.

An American debut came next as the champ saw Edison Valencia Diaz before back-to-back wins in the United Kingdom kept him rolling nicely.

Ernesto Grey and Eduardo Enrique Alvarez were both taken care of via eight-round stoppages.

Ledwaba then headed back to South Africa to beat Arnel Barotillo and Carlos Contreras in familiar surroundings. He was now one of the most respected champions at 126 pounds.

Lehlo Ledwaba Manny Pacquiao

The world’s boxing capital was next as Ledwaba got booked for the famous MGM Grand in a natural progression.

Fighting on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya vs. Javier Castillejo, Ledwaba was due to meet Enrique Sanchez in the co-feature.

When Sanchez pulled out two weeks before the event, organizers drafted in Manny Pacquiao. The rest is history.

But Pacquiao doesn’t define the carer of the man. Lehlo Ledwaba was a solid champion and will forever remain a South African legend.

Phil Jay is the Editor of WBN. An Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America since 2018. And a member of the Sports Journalists’ Association. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN.