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Corrie Sanders: When the End Finally Came

Today, Ted Sares is back to look at the career of Corrie Sanders, best remembered for fighting both Klitschko brothers and knocking out Wladimir.

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Yes, it would be nice to fight him [Wladimir] again. I do not know why he never wanted a rematch.

--Corrie Sanders

...[Wladimir Klitschko] came into the ring with no bounce, no warm-up, almost flat. Like he took the fight for granted, that he'd definitely beat the guy. But Corrie Sanders can punch with anyone for the first three rounds."

--Freddie Roach

I have always had an affinity for South African boxers. It has to do with their innate warrior proclivities combined with great technique learned by fighting in the U.K. during apartheid. The result is a atomic cocktail that provides uncommon entertainment.

Many of my favorite South Africans are featured in my new book Planet Boxing in a Chapter titled, "On Freedom Highway in South Africa." One, whose career mostly came after Apartheid, was Corrie "The Sniper" Sanders (he real name was Cornelius Johannes Sanders) whose career started with a first round wipe-out of "King Kong" Dyubele on April 2, 1989. In his 24th bout, on May 21, 1994, he suffered his first defeat, at the hands of Nate Tubbs.via a stunning second-round one-punch knockout. That win defined Tubb's less-than-stellar career. Sanders regrouped well and won his next 13, 10 by stoppage.

Seldom in a dull fight, the 6'4" "Sniper" had great hand speed which generated heavy pop in his punches. But he was also somewhat vulnerable (he also had issues with training) and this added to the excitement of his bouts. This was best illustrated when he was stopped by an aroused Hasim Rahman in a 2000 bout that he was winning. He was defending the little-regarded WBU heavyweight crown which he had won by beating Ross Purrity in 1947.

The Big One

After fighting just once each in 2001 and 2002, he was matched with Wladimir Klitschko (then 40-1). Curiously, Kitscho's one loss was to the same Ross Purrity. The fight was held in Hannover, Germany with the WBO title at stake, and few boxing people gave "The Sniper" any chance to shoot down Dr. Steelhammer. But the South African southpaw, who was equally adept at golf or boxing, demolished the champion over two rounds. Sanders, always a fast starter, floored and badly hurt the woefully unprepared Klitschko at the 2.37 mark with a short but well leveraged left. He then decked him again toward the end of the round. The Ukrainian was hurt and showed it coming out for the second stanza. Sanders jumped on him flooring him early with a left to the chin straight done the pike. He then finished him off with a flurry that forced referee Genaro Rodriguez to stop the slaughter at the 0.27 mark.

Redemption for the Klitschkos

A little over a year later, Sanders fought Wlad's brother Vitali "Dr. Ironfist" Klitschko at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in a battle for brotherly redemption. After a solid start in which he rocked Vitali, Sanders was brutally battered and finally stopped in the 8th round. Though the South African showed tremendous heart, the bigger Klitschko was simply too strong.

After starching Russian Alexey "Thunder" Varakin (21-13-3), Sanders retired from boxing in late 2004, but made the usual ill-advised comeback--is there any other kind? Reportedly, this one was triggered by financial woes. He stopped none other than "Kid Coalminer," Australian Colin Wilson (32-18) in two rounds in November 2006, and then won a gritty 10-round decision over Brazilian Daniel Bispo (19-6) in May 2007, gritty because Sanders badly injured his left hand in round one requiring him to fight one-handed for the remaining nine rounds.

"Big Daddy"

When he fought the South African champion, Osborne "Big Daddy" Machimana (14-5-1), in February 2008, Corrie had ballooned to 248 pounds but still had fast hands and still could punch. "Big Daddy "had gone up against many top level opponents, and was also dangerous and well regarded in many boxing circles. But he had issues with motivation and self-confidence. Corrie was the solid favorite but Machimana was a "live" underdog. The fight was held at the Emperor's Palace in Gauteng, South Africa, the town in which Corrie was born, giving him the hometown advantage.

The End

During most of the first round, the 42 year old Sanders gave his hometown crowd a sampling of his old hand speed as he went upstairs with a left hook and followed this up with a blithering shot to Big Daddy's big side. Showing confidence, he repeated variations of this upstairs-downstairs combination for over two minutes, but Big Daddy was showing big resilience, though he wasn't answering with anything. Then, with about 2.10 into the round, Machimana came alive and threw his own shots to Corrie's soft underbelly. After a furious exchange, a body shot hit Corries'sweet spot on the left side and the once rugged heavyweight went down to one knee and stayed down. As the announcer said, it was the end of the line for Corrie Sanders..

Corrie finished with a superb record of 42-4. During his career, he defeated such notables as Klitschko, Bert Cooper, Bobby Czyz, Carlos DeLeon, Alfred Cole, Johnny du Plooy, Art Card, Mike Evans, Johnny Nelson, James Pritchard, Olian Alexander, Ross Purrity, Anthony Wade, Otis Tisdale, Jorge Valdes, Levi Billups, and Mike Williams.

Other Heavyweights

Now South Africa had some very fine heavyweights including Gerrie Coetzee who won the WBA Heavyweight Title with a stunning tenth-round knockout of Michael Michael Dokes. Back in 1990, Johnny DuPlooy (who had an amazing amateur record of 196-4) fought fellow South African Pierre Coetzer in a bout billed as "Once and For All." It turned out to be a classic as Coetzer came back from a horrific first round beating to stop Johnny in the next round. Prior to that fight, however, DuPlooy upset highly touted Chicagoan Lee Roy Murphy in ten. Frans "The White Buffalo" Botha, who won his first 35 in a row, retired in 2002 but foolishly came back in 2007. His five career losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Michael Moorer, and Evander Holifield. A road warrior type, the "Buffalo" gained great respect in his losses to Tyson and Moorer when he displayed true courage and left nothing in the ring.

Still one stands out even if his end was an inglorious one. However, years from now, Corrie Sanders will not be remembered for the Machimana bout. No, his legacy will be all about what he did on March 8, 2003 over the course of 3 minutes and 27 furious seconds at the Preussag Arena in Hannover, Germany. And that has to count for one heck of a lot.

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