There are not many heavyweights around today who can be described as having an exciting boxing style, and in all honesty Corrie Sanders is the only one who immediately comes to mind. Although the former WBO and WBU world heavyweight champion claims not to be a fan of fighting, when he climbs in the ring he's ready to rumble. It's not a case of let's play tag for 12 rounds or jab, jab, jab, please don't hit me. His intentions are clear and if you’re not ready to swing some leather, watch out! Sanders comes to fight.
The big South African returned on Friday night with a bang when he stopped Australian heavyweight champion Colin Wilson in two rounds. It was a brawl from the get-go as both men threw caution to the wind and went for the jugular. Sanders still has amazing hand speed and is not afraid to take what his opponent has to offer. In a refreshing switch in the second round, Sanders, who some say is only a head hunter, switched his attack to the 6'5” Australian's body and landed some explosive blows to his midriff. It was a left to Wilson's body which introduced him to the canvas and left him unable to continue.
In the early part of the last century, if you defeated the champion of another country, you became their champion. If only that was still the case today. Besides his two versions of the world title and the South African title, Sanders would also have been the Russian and Australian champion. On his own admission, prior to this fight Sanders admitted he took the bout on short notice and was not as fit as he would have liked to have been. Perhaps a blessing for Wilson.
There are already strong talks of Sanders receiving a title opportunity against WBA champion Nokolai Valuev. The big money fight would of course be a rematch between Sanders and IBF champion Wladimir Klitscko. The latter has been pushing for a unification series and if Sanders is included in the equation, we could well be in for some exciting times in the heavyweight ranks in 2007.
Sanders will be embarking on a three month training camp to get himself in prime condition. Possibly one more warm-up bout and then he will be targeting the men with the titles. “I can't see anybody on the heavyweight horizon who could conceivably beat me,” says Sanders. “Bring it on, let's get some respect back in the heavyweight ranks.”
Rumors of a possible return by Vitali Klitschko, who defeated Sanders to win the WBC world title, doesn't phase the man who blew the younger Klitschko away in two rounds to win the WBO version of the belt. “I have a lot of respect for Vitali,” says Sanders “Perhaps I had too much for him when we fought. He has an awkward style and was difficult to hit. Instead of focusing on my fight, I allowed him to dictate and paid the price for it. I did shake him early on, but never capitalized on it. During the fight I realized, what I should have done to beat him, but it was too late. If we were to fight again, I'm convinced I could win.”
On the Sanders – Wilson undercard, Lehlo Ledwaba's aspirations of getting back in the big time took a serious knock when he lost his WBA pan African Super featherweight title to little known Ghanian boxer Maxwell Awuku. The former three-time world champion was dropped in the first round, never really found his feet again and retired in his corner at the end of the ninth. Some concerns have been raised that Ledwaba is not receiving the support he needs from his corner which is headed by Norman Hlabane. Hlabane, who was without a doubt one of the best trainers in the country in the 1990's, is getting on in years and sometimes appears to be going through the motions.
The same concerns were raised following Dingaan Thobela's debacle against Soon Botes a month ago. Thobela and Ledwaba have often been urged to put their personal feelings and emotions aside and to seek new training grounds if they are to make a successful return to their former glories.
Thobela has squashed rumors of retirement and is adamant that he will be returning to the ring in the new year. “Plans are already in the process,” says Thobela “You'll be seeing a new and improved Rose in the near future. Watch out for a big announcement in February. I'll be back and back with a vengeance.”
“It's all about conditioning,” says Corrie Sanders who turns 41 in January “Look at Evander Hollyfield. If you can put the work in and get in shape, there's no reason why you can't still perform on the highest level. Age is a number. It's about how hard you prepared to work.”
With a dearth of credible heavyweight contenders locally, former South African champion Anton Nel will be making a return to the ring in the near future. Already in training, Nel looks in better shape now than he did when he was champion. He's not skilled enough to ever reach the highest level of the sport, but he can bang and certainly is an entertaining fighter. Having said that, that was my opinion of Oleg Maskaev a few years back and now he's the WBC world heavyweight champion. Go figure.