Tribute to South African Boxing Legend Corrie Sanders

Internationally renowned in boxing circles for defeating Wladimir Klitschko with a second-round knockout in 2003, earning him the title of WBO heavyweight champion, South African boxer Corrie Sanders died in the early hours of 23 September 2012, after being shot during an armed robbery at a restaurant in Brits while attending a family occassion. Tributes and condolences have been pouring in, with his arch-rivals Wladimir Klitschko and his brother Vitali Klitschko expressing their shock and condolences at the news, noting that Sanders will be remembered as a great person both inside and outside the ring, and that he had been a great fighter who positively represented the sport of boxing. Sanders’ 2003 victory over Klitschko was named by The Ring – an American magazine dedicated to boxing – as the “Upset of the Year”.

Born in Pretoria on 7 January 1966, Cornelius “Corrie” Johannes Sanders started his boxing career with a decisive win against King Kong Dyubele on 2 April 1989, knocking his opponent out in the first round. He went on to win his first 23 fights, 15 of which he won by knockout, revealing his strength as a southpaw fighter. Some of the opponents he conquered during this early days of his career included British boxer Johnny Nelson, who went on to become the WBO cruiserweight champion, and American future world title challenger Bert Cooper. His first defeat was at the hands of Nate Tubbs, where on his 24th bout which took place on 21 May 1994, Sanders was knocked out in the second round.

Over the next five years, Sanders fought 12 more times, with his victories including a first round knockout over Puerto Rican former world cruiserweight champion Carlos De León, and a knockout in the second round against American Bobby Czyz, who had held both heavyweight and cruiserweight champion titles. Following a break from boxing, when Corrie Sanders returned to the ring in 2001 he defeated British contender Michael Sprott, following up with a win against Otis Tisdale in 2002.

On 8 March 2003, at a match in Hanover, Germany, Sanders dropped WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko four times, finishing the fight with a second-round knockout and clinching the WBO heavyweight title. Sanders vacated the WBO title in favor of pursuing a challenge for the vacant WBC belt. His fight against Vitali Klitschko (Wladimir’s older brother) took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and he was defeated in the eighth round. The last bouts of his boxing career saw Sanders defeat Alexei Varakin with a second-round knockout in December 2004 in Austria, a second-round stoppage victory over Australian heavyweight champion Colin Wilson at Mmabatho in the North West Province of South Africa, a win against Brazilian Daniel Bispo in a Golden Gloves Promotions bout in South Africa, before losing to Osborne Machimana, after which he retired. During his career, Corrie Sanders competed in 46 fights, won 42 with 31 by knockouts and lost 4 – an impressive record which will remain in the annals of boxing, even as fans, friends and family mourn his untimely death.