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Wed Apr 16 09:27:09 SAST 2014

Farewell to a boxing hero

DAVID ISAACSON | 25 September, 2012 07:390 Comments
Corrie Sanders is best known for beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2003

CORRIE Sanders, who died early on Sunday morning after being shot by robbers, was an all-round talented sportsman who was best known for his boxing exploits.

In his most famous victory he knocked out Wladimir Klitschko in the second round on March 8 2003, silencing 11000 fans packed into the Preussag indoor arena in Hanover, Germany.

He put the giant Ukrainian on the canvas four times in what surely ranks as one of the most explosive performances in world heavyweight boxing, matching Jack Dempsey's demolitions of Luis Angel Firpo and Jess Willard, as well as Mike Tyson's early quick-route wins.

George Foreman, who steam-rollered Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in world heavyweight title bouts in the 1970s, was a commentator at the ringside that night and was gobsmacked.

"He couldn't talk," said Vernon Smith, Sanders' manager at the time. "He just sat there with his mouth hanging open."

Sanders' win was immense. At the time Klitschko was widely considered the heir to Lennox Lewis.

Sanders, who beat Fransie Botha three times as an amateur, was also an excellent golfer who got his handicap down to scratch at times, and a skilled flyhalf and inside centre who represented Northern Transvaal at Craven Week.

His first paid job was as a policeman. He turned professional in 1989 and in his 11th professional fight won the South African title with a first-round knockout of Johnny du Plooy in 1991.

He went on to become the longest-reigning South African heavyweight champion of all time, holding the belt for nearly eight years, relinquishing it in 1998 without having received a single challenge. But local fans were sceptical of his abilities after his second-round knockout defeat to journeyman Nate Tubbs in 1994, and he struggled to redeem himself despite impressive victories over fighters such as James Pritchard, Ross Puritty and Bobby Czyz.

His victory over Klitschko was followed by a court case against German promoters, who had taken contractual obligations over the South African.

There was a failed attempt to line up a unification bout against Roy Jones Jnr.

Sanders eventually split from promoter Rodney Berman and relinquished the belt he had won from Wladimir Klitschko, opting to fight Vitali Klitschko for the vacant WBC title. Out of shape, he was stopped in the eighth round, but went out heroically, still on his feet when the referee halted it.

He earned millions from that fight but was unable to keep the money. He made an ill-considered comeback to take on former sparring partner Osborne Machimana, who felled him with a single blow to the gut.

Sanders was one of the two stand-out boxers of Harold Volbrecht's gym in 2003, the other being flyweight Mzukisi Sikali.

Now, both are murder victims.

Sanders died exactly seven years and seven days after Sikali was stabbed to death for his cellphone by two muggers in KwaNobuhle township in Uitenhage.

Sanders is survived by a son and a daughter.

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Farewell to a boxing hero

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