Posted On Monday, September 24, 2012 at 09:00:32 AM
Johannesburg: South Africa’s former world heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders died of wounds sustained in a shooting at a Pretoria restaurant where he was celebrating his nephew’s 21st birthday, police reported on Sunday.
Three men burst into the restaurant on Saturday evening and fired randomly where the family were dining, shooting Sanders in the stomach and hand as he dived in front of his daughter to protect her.
The 46-year-old died from his injuries on Sunday morning.
Police had originally said that Sanders had been there for his daughter’s birthday but the owner of the restaurant clarified that later.
“Michael’s (the brother of the victim) son was turning 21, and Corrie was also there when they (the robbers) came,” Johan Bejager told the Sapa news agency.
‘Died a hero’
Sunette Sanders, the ex-wife of the former champion, told radio station 702 that he had died heroically.
“I think he died a hero,” she said.
“He was just protecting his girl because they were shooting. He was hit by the two bullets, one in the arm and the other one through part of the stomach.”
Sanders retired in 2008 with an impressive record of 42 wins against just four defeats, with his most famous vicory being in 2003 when he won the WBO world heavyweight title by knocking-out Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in the second round after putting him down four times.
It was hailed as one of the greatest upsets in boxing history but Sanders was to find his brother Vitali a challenge too far when he challenged him for his WBC heavyweight title a year later with the fight being stopped in the eighth round.
His death was greeted with shock by sportspeople round the world and provoked glowing tributes from former boxers as well as fellow South African sporting icons. South Africa’s 2007 World Cup winning rugby captain John Smit echoed many of the tweets at the senseless waste of life.