With his left hand, Corrie Sanders shook up the boxing world in March of 2003 with a stunning second-round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko on HBO to win a piece of the heavyweight crown, THE RING’s 2003 Upset of the Year.
The South African was celebrated for his upset victory, fast hands and punching prowess, even though his time at the top was short-lived. In his next fight, a year later, he lost to older brother Vitali in a memorable bout that had some great moments, for the vacant RING heavyweight championship.
He met his demise on Sunday at the hands of thugs during an armed robbery of a restaurant in his native Pretoria. According to at least one report, Sanders lay across his 15-year-old daughter while the robbers were shooting randomly and had whispered to her, instructing her to pretend she was dead.
The boxing public has mourned Sanders and remembered his career. He was 46.
“We were shocked to learn of the sudden death of Corrie Sanders, and we want to express our sincere condolences to his family,” the Klitschko brothers said in a joint statement earlier this week. “We will remember Corrie as a great person both inside and outside the ring. He was a great fighter with a big heart who always positively represented the sport of boxing.”
Sanders, nicknamed “The Sniper”, was a decorated amateur, compiling a reported record of 180-11. He was the South African amateur heavyweight champion in 1985, ’86, ’87 and ’88.
Sanders, who also excelled at rugby, made his boxing pro debut in April 2, 1989 with a first-round KO of King Kong Dyubele in Cape Town.
The 6-foot-4 southpaw went on to win his first 23 professional bouts. His most notable victories were a knockout win over Bert Cooper in 1993 and decision victory over Englishman Johnny Nelson.
His first defeat came in 1994 to lightly-regarded Nate Tubbs, a brutal knockout that left Sanders unconscious, flat on his face.
But he bounced back, reeling off 13 straight wins, with notable victories coming against Ross Purrity, Al Cole, Carlos De Leon and Bobby Czyz. The string of victories earned him a fight against Hasim Rahman, his HBO debut and biggest exposure yet. Sanders decked Rahman in the second but was stopped in the seventh of an absolute heavyweight war, one of the best bouts of 2000.
Sanders retired in 2008 with a record of 42-2 (31 knockouts). It’s impossible to properly look back at the heavyweight division of the 90s and early 2000s without remembering Corrie Sanders.
Heavyweight champion. Golfer extraordinaire. Loving father.
He is survived by his two children.
Photos / Stuart Franklin, Steve Grayson, and Doug Benc – Getty Images