Nelson Mandela's Boxing Belt Stolen From Museum

A boxing championship belt given to Nelson Mandela by famed boxer Sugar Ray Leonard has been stolen from a museum in South Africa, according to local press reports.

Staff arriving for work at the museum in the morning found that the locks had been tampered with, and went in to discover the belt was missing from Mandela House in Orlando West, Soweto, South African news outlet TimesLIVE reported. The artifact is worth about R50,000 (just under $2,944), according to the website.

Leonard and Mandela met in 2015, with the former prizefighter tweeting a picture of them together, captioning the image with the words, "such a memorable day." It is unclear exactly when Leonard gifted the belt to Mandela.

The theft is thought to have occurred on the night of July 1, and was reported to police on July 2, but details were only made public on Tuesday when South African news station ENCA broke the story.

Police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Sello told TimesLIVE: "There are no suspects arrested and police are investigating. Anyone who may have information about this incident is requested to contact the police... All information received will be treated as strictly confidential."

In March, Luxembourg's Central Boxing Club's Facebook page shared a quote from Leonard describing how he came to give the belt to Mandela. "I was in South Africa and was invited to dinner at his house. I go to the front door and he answers it," Leonard said. "Can you imagine? He answers the door himself. Just being invited meant the world to me, and then he answers the door. He hugged me. I got weak in the legs. I ended up giving him one of my championship belts. When I first met him, he looked at me and said, 'You have inspired me.' I said, 'Sir, contraire, you have inspired me'."

Nelson Mandela and Sugar Ray Leonard
A boxing championship belt given to Nelson Mandela (L) by famed boxer Sugar Ray Leonard (R) has been reported stolen from a South African museum. Getty

News of the theft comes just days before the annual Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18. Prince Harry is reportedly due to mark the day next week by giving a speech honoring Mandela's life and humanitarian work to a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers, Leonard, 66, retired in 1997 after winning six world titles and a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics. He has not yet commented on the theft of his gift from the museum. Newsweek has reached out to his representatives.

Mandela, the former South African president and civil rights campaigner who helped end the country's racist system of apartheid, died in 2013 aged 95. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is affectionately known by his clan name "Madiba" in South Africa. The Nelson Mandela National Museum, or "Mandela House," is the home where he lived from 1946 to 1962, and he briefly returned there after his 27-year imprisonment.

Newsweek has reached out to the museum for further information about the theft of the belt.