'Sanders was broke but never asked for a handout' - PHOTOS
"Corrie helped raise millions of rands for charities through his participation in events, even when he was struggling to make ends meet"
Friends and family of Corrie Sanders have called on the government to act against crime, their plea being voiced during a moving funeral service for the murdered former world heavyweight champion.
While more than 1,000 people packed out the Wonderpark NG Kerk in Pretoria North to pay their last respects to Sanders — just 46 when he was fatally wounded in an armed robbery — three men accused of killing him appeared briefly in court.
“Friends and family urge government to protect South African citizens,” Reverend Chris Gericke told the mourners, who happened to include boxer-turned-hitman Mikey Schultz, the self-confessed killer of mining magnate Brett Kebble, and alleged crime boss Glenn Agliotti.
But the majority of famous faces belonged to former boxers and other sports stars — stricken ex-Springbok scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen shuffled into the church and received massive applause when he was named as one of the celebrities in attendance.
Also there were golfer Dale Hayes, TV commentator Hugh Bladen, as well as Pierre Coetzer, Sanders’s predecessor as SA heavyweight champion, former sparring partner Sebastiaan Rothmann, trainer Nick Durandt and one-time heavyweight contender Kallie Knoetze.
Knoetze, who fought in an elimination series for the WBA title in 1979, was emotional before he finally found his voice to speak about his dead friend.
Die “Bek van Boomstraat” [the big mouth], as Knoetze was known in his fighting days, brought a welcome smile to tear-stained faces.
“I’m a tough, hard guy,” Knoetze told our reporter after the service. “But when it comes to these things, I’m a softie.”
“He was a gentle giant — a guy who was dangerous in the ring but harmless outside of it,” boxing promoter Nick Durandt told reporters after the service.
Friend and radio presenter Darren Scott praised Sanders for his ever-generous attitude.
“Corrie helped raise millions of rands for charities through his participation in events, even when he was struggling to make ends meet,” he said, adding Sanders had “tearfully opened up” to only a few friends to discuss his dire financial situation.
“During these few emotional conversations he never asked for money.”
Scott spoke of the irony of how Sanders had joined a public chorus against crime in the wake of the murders of musician Lucky Dube and Louis Vorster, the former provincial cricketer.
- Sanders’ son Dean, who turned 12 on Friday, did a brave job as a pall-bearer, and daughter Marinique, 15, was a tower of strength as she comforted those around her.
Photo slideshows and clips of Sanders’ old fights were shown on a giant screen in the church, featuring his famous knockout of Wladimir Klitschko in 2003.
That night Sanders walked to the ring to the beat of Right Said Fred’s “Stand Up For The Champions”, and you literally could hear a pin drop in the indoor arena of 11,000 fans when he first dropped the champion.
On 1 October 2012, the congregation was asked to stand as Sanders’ casket was wheeled into the church, the silence broken only by the sobs of his inconsolable mother, Alida.
- Additional reporting by Sapa, Reuters