Corrie Sanders provided fight fans with one of the more memorable moments in the heavyweight division last decade, when on March 8, 2003, the South African lefty slugger took it to favorite Wladimir Klitschko, knocked the heir-to-the-throne to the mat four times and scored a stoppage victory in round two.
We will always have that memory to remember Sanders by; but sadly, the life of the man born Cornelius Johannes Sanders was cut short when he was shot and killed during a robbery in Pretoria, South Africa.
Sanders, age 46, was celebrating early Sunday the 21st birthday of his brother's son at a restaurant when three robbers burst in. There was gunfire, and Sanders was hit in the hand and abdomen. When shots rang out, the 6-4 fighter best known for his offensive-mindedness dove in front of his daughter to protect her.
One report said that an operation was performed on the stomach wound in a hospital, to no avail.
The boxer nicknamed “The Sniper” was 38 when he took on the Klitschko challenge. He was supposed to be a steppingstone, a respectable name added to the younger Klitschko brother's resume. “I'm feeling very good,” the South African said before the bout. “I've trained really hard and am feeling confident. Klitschko is a big name and a big guy the world takes note of. Obviously he's the favourite to win. I don't care what happens in the fight as long as I beat him.”
Sanders' aggressiveness and above-average hand speed shocked the world, if not him and his crew. A short, hard left with 33 to go in the first buzzed the 26-year-old Klitschko badly, and he never truly recovered.
Sanders' next fight was against big brother Vitali, and this time, Sanders, ten pounds heavier and a year older, didn't have the element of surprise going for him. Vitali stopped the South Africa in round eight, in Los Angeles.
The talented lefty, who often found himself being avoided, as a low reward-high risk sort of foe, had fights with Lennox Lewis, David Tua, Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones fall through; he fought four more times after the Vitali loss, and called it a day in 2008.
Sanders was almost as good at golf as he was at boxing. In a 2003 interview, he said, “They have what's called a Celebrity Tour in America (tennis star turned golf pro Ivan Lendl is one of the regulars) and I may have a crack at that. But also at the back of my mind is the Senior Tour once I turn 50, although that's a long way down the road still.”
It could be argued that Sanders didn't capitalize on that Wladimir win, and maximize the momentum gained in Hanover, Germany, but perhaps it's better to synopsize his ring arc thusly: if the Wladimir KO was his claim to fame, Corrie Sanders was a heck of a one-hit wonder.