Former world heavyweight boxing champion Corrie Sanders died making the ultimate sacrifice, friend and public figure Darren Scott said on Monday.
"Corrie made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life to save his child," Scott said at Sanders' funeral at the Wonderpark NG church in Pretoria North.
Hundreds of friends and relatives filled the church as a few close friends paid tribute to Sanders.
Scott described him as a man who deeply loved his country and his family.
"He was one of the most consistent people I ever knew. He was such a lekker, down-to-earth guy. Corrie Sanders was an incredibly gentle soul."
Sanders won the World Boxing Organisation's heavyweight title in March 2003 by dropping Ukrainian Wladimir Klitsckho in the second round in Hanover, Germany. He retired five years later.
He was at the Thatch Haven Country Lodge, in Brits, on 22 September when armed robbers entered and began firing shots at random.
Sanders was hit in the hand and stomach and died in the Kalafong hospital the next day.
In personal letters from the family, his sister Ruby described him as one in a million.
"What a blessing it was to have you as a brother."
His brother Mike, in his letter, recalled their childhood.
"I was always so proud of you. There was nothing you couldn't do. Except maybe homework, but it wasn't that important then."
Fellow boxer and friend Kallie Knoetze thanked numerous sporting personalities, such as former Springbok captain Joost van der Westhuizen and Blue Bulls president Louis Nel for their attendance.
"That's why I never became world champion. I cry too easily," he said as he wiped tears from his eyes.
A message from golfing legend Gary Player was also read on stage.
"He was a true champion. We will miss him," it read.
Slides of Sanders were projected onto a church wall, with Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up playing in the background.
Two videos of his fights and images of Sanders with his family were also shown.
Singer and friend Kurt Darren sang a song in his honour. Behind him was a video of Sanders during boxing practice a week ago. A visibly emotional Darren greeted the family as he left the stage.
Outside the church, Springbok rugby player and friend James Dalton said: "It is a great loss."
Springbok player and rugby commentator Naas Botha echoed these sentiments.
"He was just an absolutely fantastic person. It is very sad," he said.
Earlier on Monday, the three men accused of murdering Sanders appeared in the Brits Magistrate's Court.
Paida Fish (19), Samuel Mabena (27), and Chris Moyo (25) each face one count of murder and three charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances.
The matter was postponed to 8 October for further investigation. The men, all Zimbabweans, remained in custody.
Mabena also appeared in court on Monday in connection with the murder of farmer Mauritz Oberholzer near Brits on 5 September. This matter was postponed until Tuesday.
The three were arrested in the Oukasie informal settlement, near Brits, on Thursday after police received a tip-off.