Cornelius Johannes "Corrie" Sanders (7 January 1966 – 23 September 2012) was a South African professional boxer who competed from 1989 to 2008. He won the WBO heavyweight title in 2003 after knocking out Wladimir Klitschko in two rounds, which was considered one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight boxing history; The Ring magazine named it the Upset of the Year. In 2004, having vacated the WBO title, Sanders faced Wladimir's brother Vitali Klitschko in an unsuccessful but valiant challenge for the vacant WBC and Ring heavyweight titles. He also held the WBU heavyweight title from 1997 until 2000.
Early life and amateur career
Sanders grew up in Brits, South Africa, and was of Afrikaner descent. Having been introduced to boxing by his uncle, Sanders finished his amateur career in the late 1980s with 180 wins and 11 losses.
Sanders made his professional debut in 1989 with a first-round knockout of King Kong Dyubele on 2 April 1989. He went on to win his next 22 bouts, 14 by knockout. Among the fighters he defeated during that streak were Steve Zouski, Art Card, future WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson, and future world title challenger Bert Cooper. In his 24th bout, on 21 May 1994, Sanders suffered his first defeat, at the hands of Nate Tubbs via a second-round knockout.
He fought 12 more times over the next five years, including a first-round knockout over former world cruiserweight champion Carlos De León and a second-round knockout over another former world champion, Bobby Czyz. A stoppage loss to future heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman in a bout Sanders was winning confirmed his ability and also his vulnerability. Returning to the ring in 2001 he scored a quick win over Michael Sprott and then followed this up with a defeat of Otis Tisdale in 2002. Corrie Sanders' biggest weapons were his southpaw fast hands that he used to knock fighters out early.
Despite the fact that he had fought only three rounds in the last two years, the WBO sanctioned a challenge to their heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. On 8 March 2003, Sanders provided a stunning upset in Hanover, Germany, by dropping Klitschko four times to snatch the Ukrainian's belt by a second-round knockout.
Sanders vacated the WBO title in December 2003 so that he could concentrate on a challenge for the vacant WBC belt. The fight took place on 24 April 2004, against Wladimir's older brother, Vitali. Sanders was stopped by Vitali in the eighth round of the fight in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. After Sanders death, Vitali went on to pay his respects to Sanders by calling this the hardest fight of his career.
Sanders returned to action after two years in November 2006 to score a second round stoppage win over the Australian heavyweight champion Colin Wilson at the Convention Centre in Mafikeng. He had signed with Golden Gloves Promotions, and won another bout in South Africa against Brazilian Daniel Bispo in May 2007. His last bout, of the South African heavyweight title, was a loss to Osborne Machimana, a bout he took despite being injured beforehand. Sanders' final record was 42 wins (31 by knockout) and 4 losses.
On 22 September 2012, Corrie Sanders was fatally shot in an armed robbery at a restaurant in Brits, South Africa, where a function was being held for his nephew's 21st birthday. Sanders was taken to a hospital in Pretoria, where he died in the early hours of 23 September 2012 of his wounds. Sanders' widow, Suzette Sanders, said Corrie died a hero, using his body to protect his daughter from oncoming bullets.
Sanders had been near the entrance of the restaurant talking to his daughter Marinique and a cousin when three robbers entered firing their guns, striking Sanders in the stomach and arm as he moved in front of his daughter to protect her. Sanders was already bleeding from his wounds when he pulled her to the ground and told her to pretend she was dead.
On 27 September 2012, following a tip-off, North West police arrested three men in the Oukasie informal settlement near Brits charging them with the murder of Sanders. All three are citizens of Zimbabwe. At the first location, two suspects were apprehended and police recovered a cellular phone, vehicle key, purse and cash stolen during the robbery. Police then went to a second address and a third suspect was arrested, and recovered a handbag stolen in the robbery. The trial was initially postponed until August 2013 as investigators attempted to locate the gun used in the crime based on the fourth suspect involved, who is currently serving a 30-year sentence in Zimbabwe for killing a police officer.
On 11 February 2015, a High Court in Pretoria Judge Ferdi Preller sentenced Paida Fish, Chris Moyo and Samuel Mabena each to 43 years imprisonment, of which they have to serve 30, on charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.