Corrie Sanders | Former WBO Heavyweight Champion Shot DeadWritten by Lee Cleveland
According to BoxingScene, former WBO Heavyweight Champion Corrie Sanders was shot dead earlier today during a restaurant robbery in South Africa.
The South African boxing legend, one of the greatest pugilists to have ever represented that country, was immediately rushed to the hospital after suffering a serious stomach wound but doctors were unable to save him.
Sanders was only 46.
According to BoxingScene, an eyewitness said three men stormed a restaurant outside Pretoria and Sanders was "just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Corrie Sanders, an extremely gifted, hard-punching southpaw, burst into prominence in 2000 after his epic bout with Hasim Rahman which was televised on HBO. In a literal slugfest, Sanders floored Rahman in the third round only to be knocked down himself in the third and fourth rounds. Rahman, who eventually stopped Sanders via a 7th Round TKO, said after the fight, "I've never been hit like that in my life."
But Corrie Sanders will perhaps be most known for his stunning 2nd Round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko on March 8, 2003.
Wladimir Klitschko (then 40-1), the WBO Heavyweight Champion at the time, was floored four times by the 37 year old Sanders, twice in first round and twice in round two in what became The RING's Upset of the Year.
The now deceased fighter told IOL Sport last week:
Pictured: A young Corrie Sanders in the 1990s
"I was so pumped for the fight, because a world title shot was what I had always wanted.
"I had been South African amateur champion for four years, and I knew that I was ready. My big weapon was always the straight left hook, and being a southpaw always made me tricky for right-handers."
Thirteen months after his major upset win, Sanders squared off against Vitali Klitschko for the WBC Title vacated by the newly-retired Lennox Lewis. Despite having the elder Klitschko badly hurt in Round 1 with his thudding power, Corrie Sanders failed to close the deal.
And in Round 3, both fighters went toe-to-toe, prompting HBO-TV commentator Larry Merchant to say, "Whoa! One of the most exciting heavyweight rounds in years."
Pictured: Corrie Sanders, left, absorbs a hard right by Vitali Klitschko in 2004
But by the 8th Round, Sanders had taken a serious pounding. Under a heavy barrage of punches in that round, the referee stopped the contest after Sanders refused to go down.
To date, Corrie Sanders is seemingly the only fighter to have seriously stunned Vitali Klitschko in the Ukrainian's pro career.
After the loss to Vitali, Sanders would fight only four times over the next five years. He defeated three journeymen before losing via 1st Round knockout to Osborne Machimana in 2008 at the age of 42 in what would be his final prizefight.
Sanders told IOL Sport earlier this month, "I thought that I could have gone for a shot at a world title much earlier. I always felt that my promoter, Rodney Berman, kept me wrapped in cotton-wool for too long, and by the time I got my shot, I was already 38.
After concluding his boxing career, Corrie continue to manage several businesses and gave speaking engagements in his native South Africa.
"I do motivational talks and things like that at schools and in companies, and I must say that it always makes me very proud to go out and meet all the great people in this wonderful country of ours," he explained.
When asked by IOL Sport why he didn't move the America during the height of his boxing career, Sanders replied:
Pictured: A still-dangerous Corrie Sanders at 42
"...I loved this country (South Africa) too much. It might sound strange, but I felt I had more black fans than white. I think the two big sports in the black community are boxing and soccer, and whenever I was out and about, they would stop me and want to chat. That was always very humbling."
A devoted family man and credit to boxing, Sanders is survived by his wife and an adult son and daughter.
In perhaps what was his final interview, Sanders told IOL Sport, "My mate, Naas Botha, always says to me that whatever happens in life, no one can ever take that away from me!"
Corrie Sanders Facts & Stats
- Turned pro in 1989
- Record: 42-4, 31 KOs
- A southpaw, Corrie Sanders had underrated speed and sickening power
- Was set to face then lineal heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1995 but Moorer would lose his title to George Foreman who opted to face Axel Scultz in his first title defense
- Many elite boxers did not want to fight Sanders because he was considered "high-risk, low-reward"
- Defeated Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBO Heavyweight Title in 2003
- Lost to Vitali Klitschko in an exciting battle for Lennox Lewis' vacated WBC heavyweight title
- Collected wins over Johnny Du Plooy, Bert Cooper, James Pritchard, Ross Puritty, Bobby Czyz, Alfred Cole, Michael Sprott and Wladimir Klitschko
- Was a keen golfer who played in celebrity tournaments and was believed by some to be good enough to play in the PGA
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.