By Mark Lamport-Stokes
Mandela, a keen boxer in his youth, is a good friend of boxing great Muhammad Ali and has always kept an eagle eye on contemporary fighters, according to his daughter Zindzi Mandela.
"My father is still very much aware of who the fighters are," Zindzi told Reuters after Filipino Pacquiao and American Shane Mosley held a news conference at a hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss their May 7 WBO welterweight bout.
"I was just telling both Shane Mosley and Manny Pacquiao ... my father sits up to watch a fight (on television) and he still loves the sport with a passion."
Mandela, 92, started boxing while studying at Fort Hare University in Eastern Cape and he famously shadow boxed behind bars while spending 27 years in prison for his role in the struggle against white-minority rule.
"I grew up knowing that my father was a boxer," said Zindzi, who is in Los Angeles to promote Mandela Day which coincides with her father's birthday on July 18.
"We always had those pictures at home of him shadow boxing and I knew the gym where he used to go and practice and spar and so on.
"When he came out of prison, he was already a grown man and he couldn't go back to the sport but we used to go boxing bouts together."
SOUTH AFRICAN SUCCESS
Zindzi said her father especially savored the success of South African fighters Baby Jake Matlala and Dingaan Thobela, who was nicknamed 'Rose of Soweto', in the 1980s and 1990s.
Of the contemporary boxers, she said Mandela was particularly impressed by eight-times world champion Pacquiao, who won a seat in his national congress last year and is revered for his humanitarian work in the Philippines.
"Of course, my father was a great admirer of Muhammad Ali and they are still great friends to this day."
Mandela, who has not been seen in public since the soccer World Cup final in July last year, created a media frenzy in South Africa when he was hospitalized for a respiratory infection a fortnight ago.
However South African President Jacob Zuma said earlier on Thursday that Mandela was comfortable and receiving good care at home.
"My father is fully recovered," Zindzi said. "He is just resting at home, surrounded by his grandchildren and all his family. He has his sense of humour and he is eating.
"I can't wait to actually call him when he is awake to tell him that I was here at the boxing news conference," she added with a squeal of delight.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)