Ex-champion Corrie Sanders killed

Updated: September 23, 2012, 6:39 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Former heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders has died after being shot by robbers at a restaurant during a family celebration. He was 46.

[+] EnlargeSanders
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesCorrie Sanders, 46, was shot by robbers at a restaurant during a family celebration. The heavy-hitting southpaw was best known for his upset of Wladimir Klitschko.

Police say Sanders was shot in the hand and stomach at a family member's 21st birthday party at the restaurant in Brits, in South Africa's North West province, on Saturday night.

He died in a hospital in the capital city of Pretoria early Sunday morning.

Sanders (42-4, 31 KOs), a heavy-hitting southpaw who fought professionally from 1989 to 2008, is best known for his massive upset of Wladimir Klitschko to win a heavyweight title in March 2003.

Sanders stopped him in the second round in Hannover, Germany.

Rather than face Klitschko in a rematch, Sanders, who was stripped of his title by the WBO, returned 13 months later to face Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir's older brother, for the vacant WBC version of the heavyweight crown.

Lennox Lewis had vacated the belt when he retired in early 2004. Klitschko and Sanders, who had several lengthy layoffs during his career, waged a pitched battle at the Staples Center in Los Angeles before Klitschko stopped him in the eighth round.

The Klitschko brothers issued a statement about their rival's death on Sunday.

"We were shocked to learn of the sudden death of Corrie Sanders and we want to express our sincere condolences to his family," they said. "We will remember Corrie as a great person both inside and outside the ring. He was a great fighter with a big heart who always positively represented the sport of boxing."

Sanders fought sporadically after the loss to Klitschko, fighting only four more times against lesser opponents over the next four years.

Sanders' true love was golf and he considered pursuing a professional career in the sport.

He retired after being knocked out in the first round by South African countryman Osborne Machimana in February 2008.

Information from ESPN.com's Dan Rafael and The Associated Press was used in this report.