Sunday, 23 September 2012

The senseless murder of world heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders: eye-witness account, his last interview... and moving tributes

Tragic: Corrie Sanders

CORRIE SANDERS, the man who stunned the boxing world when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBO heavyweight title in 2003, died this morning in hospital after being shot at his nephew’s 21st birthday party.
The death of one of South Africa’s most popular sportsmen, aged 46, rocked the nation on Sunday morning as news of his death spread through the social networks.
He was the victim of a random shooting when three armed men raided the restaurant at Thatch Haven Country Lodge, just off Carel de Wet Road near Brits outside Pretoria. Latest reports suggest he was shot when he stood up to protect his family. Sanders died this morning after emergency surgery at Kalafong Hospital this morning.
An eye-witness, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me this morning: “Corrie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They shot him in the stomach. There was also a wound in his arm. I’m not sure if it was all from the same bullet.”
His wife Sunette told reporters later: "I think he died a hero. He went to protect his girl because there were shots." She also said the robbers were "kicking and slapping people" as they entered the restaurant.
As tributes to the fallen champion flooded Twitter, my eye-witness, a close friend of the family, said: “We were at Thatch Haven near Brits to celebrate with Corrie’s brother Mike. His son, also Mike, is 21 next week.
“There were 48 people at the restaurant, it’s just off the main road. We arrived at around 4pm on Saturday. At about 6pm, as it was getting dark, Mike gave a speech. Then the grandfather stood up and offered a prayer.
“That’s when we heard three or four shots. At first we thought it was the kids playing around. Then we realised it was serious.
“There were three of them. Armed with pistols. They were telling everyone to lie down and give them their wallets and mobile phones. They didn’t take much. They were working their way through the room when a car alarm went off outside and they panicked and ran.
“Corrie was the only one shot. He didn’t try anything heroic as far as I could see. He was just in the wrong place, by the entrance. They shot him through the stomach and I also saw a wound in his arm, it might have been from the same bullet, which went right through him.
"I think they shot him as a lesson to the rest of us, to say they were serious.
“We called the ambulance. The NetCare people were very good, even though Corrie didn’t have any medical insurance. They operated in the hospital, but he died early this morning.
“I would say this. The function was not advertised anywhere. How did they know what was going on? Some people say security had been speaking to these men earlier. We are all still in shock. I don’t want to be quoted on this. It’s too awful.”

Cornelius Johannes Sanders was born on January 7, 1966 in Pretoria. He began fighting in 1989, aged 23 and won his first 23 professional bouts, 15 of them knock-outs.
Among his victims: future WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson and future world title challenger Bert Cooper. Despite his first defeat in 1994 against Nate Tubbs - a second round knockout – he went on to beat former world cruiserweight champion Carlos De León with a first round knock-out and a second round knockout over another former world champion, Bobby Czyz.
Defeat against future heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman - controversially - saw southpaw Sanders gain a reputation for vulnerability. But that all changed a year later. After fighting three rounds in two years, he gained was given a surprise tilt at the world heavyweight title against Klitschko in Hanover, Gemany, on 8 March 2003 after Danny Williams withdrew at the last minute.
Against all the odds, he put the huge Ukrainian down four times and won on a second-round knock-out to take Wladimir’s WBO belt.
Corrie took on big brother Vitali Klitschko in an attempt to grab the vacant WBC heavyweight crown on April 24, 2004, at Staples Centre in Los Angeles but was stopped in the eighth round.
Sanders never quite recovered his world title form and after a series of retirements finally gave up boxing with a record of 42 fights, four defeats and 31 knock-outs.
Interviewed by the Sunday Tribune’s Lungami Zami at a golf day earlier this month, Sanders said: “I thought that I could have gone for a shot at a world title much earlier. I always felt that my promoter, Rodney Berman, kept me wrapped in cotton-wool for too long, and by the time I got my shot, I was already 38.
“I do motivational talks and things like that at schools and in companies, and I must say that it always makes me very proud to go out and meet all the great people in this wonderful country of ours.
“I loved this country too much to move to the US like other boxers. It might sound strange, but I felt I had more black fans than white. I think the two big sports in the black community are boxing and soccer, and whenever I was out and about, they would stop me and want to chat. That was always very humbling.
“Being based here was a bit easier in that sense, because being a boxer is not easy on your family. My wife watched only a few of my fights live, and preferred to tape them, and then watch them once she knew what the result was.”
“I was blessed to have the family I have, and even though my kids were really young during my career, they have a lot of memories to fall back on."
Sanders played golf of a handicap of just three and said: “I’m a member at Pecanwood, as well as the Els Club. Golf was something I did to relax, and I got down to a one and scratch at a point, but these days it’s not as consistent.”
And on his monumental upset against Klitschko, Sanders said: “My mate, Naas Botha, always says to me that whatever happens in life, no one can ever take that away from me.
“A few people have come together and there is a proper gym being built in Midstream. When it opens, I will be in there, trying to help find our next world champion.”
Tributes to a much-loved South African sporting hero poured in with Springbok rugby player Breyton Paulse twittering: “Gone too soon,” and Olympic gold medallist Cameron van der Burg adding: “Rest in peace Corrie. A champion of the world.”
Former Springbok captain John Smit tweeted: "Just woke up to news of Corrie Sanders having been murdered last night, what another senseless waste of life in SA. RIP Champion."
Former Proteas cricketer Pat Symcox said: "Feel sick to the core. Just so damn angry over Corrie's murder. A helpless feeling and one that wants to scream out." Former captain Shaun Pollock twittered: "Tragic news about Corrie Sanders. My thoughts are with his family. RIP."
Former Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates star Mark Fish said: "So sad to hear about the tragic death of SA boxing great and a true gentleman Corrie Sanders. Condolences to all his family."
Sports reporter David Isaacson said: "Harold Volbrecht had a small gym, Corrie and Msukisi Sikali were stable-mates and world champs together. Both murdered. Shocking."
Radio presenter Darren Scott pulled no punches. He tweeted: "To the sons of bitches who murdered my friend Corrie Sanders. I hope you fucking rot in hell."


  1. - the gentle giant - I will always remember from my school days.

  2. Sad sad day for boxing. RIP Champ

  3. I hope these idiots rot in hell. When caught we shud put put a price on there heads... dead or alive.
    Corrie you were a legend and true gentleman. RIP.

  4. Thanks for your comments. Vriki... can you tell us more?

  5. niceandlovelysausage23 September 2012 at 21:27

    smells like a hit to me. why would the robbers steal a cellphone (probably worth peanuts) and a bag (likely to contain items worth peanuts) and then just shoot randomly (with corrie being the 'unlucky' victim)?

  6. Yup, Mr Sausage, the thought crossed my mind. Golf at Pecanwood Estate? Some of the tributes on twitter? And only a world heavyweight champion shot? Time will tell.

  7. niceandlovelysausage24 September 2012 at 08:50

    I don't mean to be a dick about my allegations .. but in cases like this there's usually more to it than what we actually see and know.

    As you say 'time will tell' if this was planned or just a tragic incident.

    One thing to note though is that there are a lot more unsecure social venues in that area ... so its a hell of a surprise that the robbers didn't chose any of the easier targets instead.

  8. Attention niceandlovelysausage

    Your presence is required on my braai stand.

    That is all

  9. Neal, stop this blogging nonsense and come massage mama's feet.