The boxing world is shocked over the death of former WBO world heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders. As BoxingScene.com reported late Saturday night, the boxer died of injuries sustained in a shooting at a Pretoria restaurant where he was celebrating his nephew's 21st birthday.
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.
He was taken to a local hospital and underwent emergency surgery, but 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.
Sunette Sanders, the ex-wife of the former champion, told radio station 702 that he had died heroically:
"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 victory being in 2003 when he won the WBO world heavyweight title by knocking-out 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.
The Klitschkos released a statement mourning his death.
"We were shocked to learn of the sudden death of Corrie Sanders and we want to express our sincere condolences to his family. 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."
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.
"Just woke up to news of Corrie Sanders having been murdered last night, what another senseless waste of life in SA. RIP Champion," wrote Smit.
South African cricketers presently on duty at the world Twenty20 in Sri Lanka also chipped in their reactions.
"Shocking news about Corrie Sanders' death, gonna miss u Corras," commented ace batsman and Twenty20 skipper AB deVilliers.
Pace bowler Albie Morkel said his joy at beating hosts Sri Lanka in Saturday's Twenty20 game had been soured by the news.
"Went to bed as a happy man last night only to wake up to the tragic news of Corrie Sanders death.. Another senseless murder in SA!! RIP"