Mechanic honours boxing legend with lifetime free car service

South African stalwarts in the sport and arts sector seldom get recognition for flying the country’s flag high, but a prominent Johannesburg motor mechanic is determined to change that.

This week, Nico Lagidze, a Mercedes Benz and BMW specialist who owns Merc Auto World in Rivonia, paid tribute to retired boxing icon Dingaan Thobela by offering him a free service for his vehicles.

He said the best time to show gratitude was while the person was still alive. He added that he would also look for other people who had achieved big in other industries and honour them as well.

“Let’s honour these guys while they are still alive because they honoured us while they were still at the peak of their careers. We’re just doing our part to show our appreciation for what Dingaan has done for us as a country. We’re going to honour other legends in various fields this way, at a later stage,” said Lagidze.

Thobela, popuparly known as “The Rose of Soweto”, sold South Africa to the world with his boxing exploits in the 1980s and 1990s.

His boxing record sees him scoring 26 knockouts in 56 professional fights. He became the first South African boxer to win four world titles in different weight divisions. His WBC middleweight world title fight against British icon Glenn Catley in the year 2000, was the first WBC-sanctioned fight to be held in South African. This after the US-based boxing body had disassociated itself with the country in the apartheid era, vowing never to stage their fights in South Africa.

The victory compelled the late former South African president Nelson Mandela, a known Thobela fan, to order that the boxer be inducted in a Wall of Fame among other arts and sport legends who helped put the country in the world map.

Thobela praised Lagidze for honouring him with this gesture while he was still alive: “I’d like to thank Nico for helping us, retired legends, with a free service. He’s a man of his word and I wish him all the best,” he said.

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