Former heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders was gunned down while celebrating his nephew's birthday yesterday.
He was one of my favorite fighters, an entertaining southpaw with concussive power and spectacularly quick hands for his size, one of those fighters who could have been dominant if they'd approached the sport with a life or death attitude. But Corrie harbored dreams of being a professional golfer- he gave his all inside the ropes, but rumor was he preferred doing his roadwork on the links with a club in his hands.
Most sports fans know him for his huge upset win over Wladimir Klitschko if they know him at all. The fight swung from the same hinge as boxing's greatest upset, Tyson/Douglas: a champion hand-picking a talented but inconsistent opponent who for reasons of their own approached the fight with singular focus. Sanders was thirty seven, retired and golfing on the South African professional tour when Wlad's team waved a payday under his nose. He prepared for the fight with a passion previously unseen, even hiring a sports psychologist to help him visualize victory and shaving his trademark mustache to present a fiercer visage in the ring.
The results spoke volumes- a fight intended to be a Klitschko coronation ended with the presumed king unstrung on the canvas.
That the man so transcendently and triumphantly alive in the ring that night left this world in such a senseless way tears my heart.
RIP to a champion.