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Not in the Script
Kelley King
March 17, 2003
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March 17, 2003

Not In The Script

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WBO heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, by journeyman southpaw Corrie Sanders of South Africa. Klitschko, 26, a Ukrainian with a huge following in Germany, where the bout was staged, succumbed to a barrage of potent lefts 27 seconds into the second round. The upset delivers another blow to the troubled sport, which is hurting for star power (SI, March 10). The 6'6", 243-pound Klitschko, whose brother, Vitali, 31, is the No. 1 ranked heavyweight by the WBC and the WBA, was supposed to be one of the division's big draws. Before his loss to Sanders, Wladimir was 40-1 with 37 knockouts; wins against Ray Mercer and Jameel McCline had led HBO to sign him to a nine-fight deal late last year.

With 37 years—and ample paunch—under his belt, Sanders had been traveling a different path. Despite a 38-2 record heading into Saturday's fight, the amiable father of two had experienced career stasis since being knocked out by Hasim Rahman in 2000. Lately, Sanders had spent more time on the golf course, where he has whittled his handicap to one, than in the ring, where he had fought three rounds in 33 months. Sanders's main advantages against the heavily favored Klitschko were a big left hand—rare among heavyweights—and his opponent's iffy jaw. Using tips from his sparring partner, Ross Puritty, who handed Klitschko his only loss (a TKO in 1998), Sanders dropped the Ukrainian with a left hook to the chin with 33 seconds left in the first round, then knocked him down seconds later and again in the second before finishing the job with a straight left to the face.

Klitschko called the fourth knockdown punch "lucky" and said he'd like a rematch. Although he's hardly what the boxing world was looking for—a golfer on the brink of middle age—Sanders is game. "This match changed my perspective," he says. "I want a few more good fights."