Boxing: Sanders' shock victory scuppers Klitschko fight against Lewis

Steve Bunce
Monday 10 March 2003 01:00

The idea of a Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko fight ever happening turned to fantasy on Saturday night in Hanover when an unknown fighter called Corrie Sanders ruined the script.

Sanders, 37, was selected as the Ukrainian's latest victim because during the last 36 months the South African had fought just two easy fights. But it all went wrong in the first round and after just 25 seconds of round two the fight was called off.

Lewis and Klitchsko were due to meet in November in what had been expected to be the final fight of Lewis' career and, in theory, the defining fight of Klitchsko's career: but that endgame is all over and with it purses of $20m (£12.6m) each.

A few years ago Sanders held the World Boxing Union title, but in 2000 he was knocked out by Hasim Rahman and from that point it looked like his days as a serious and dangerous contender were over and that is exactly why he was selected as Klitchsko's latest challenger.

Now Sanders can have one voluntary defence before returning to Germany and a rematch with Klitschko. But the glamour has faded forever from the showdown that had been planned for November and that means that Lewis will have to readjust his sights and reconsider his final year in the sport.

Lewis has set a deadline of 18 March for Mike Tyson to agree a rematch and if that fails to happen then Lewis will still go ahead with a planned fight on 21 June. That fight could in theory be against Sanders even though that would be a fight that would have been unimaginable before this disaster for Klitschko.

The win by Sanders was a shock, but the weekend's most gruesome encounter took place without any television cameras, at a sports centre on the outskirts of Coventry, between Peter Oboh, who was born in Nigeria and started to fight in Italy before ending up in South London, and local idol Neil Simpson.

The AT7 Centre was packed to capacity and extremely hostile even before the opening bell of what was a dirty and brutal affair that ended in round 11 with Simpson on his back and Oboh jumping for joy. Oboh retained his Commonwealth light heavyweight title and added the British version and it is unlikely that there will be a more entertaining and thrilling fight this year on British soil.

Meanwhile, at York Hall, Bethnal Green, two so-called British world champions met contrasting opponents in what has become a regular fixture on the British boxing calendar of double world title fights.

Richard Williams, a slick boxer from Stockwell, retained his International Boxing Organisation light middleweight title and added the World Boxing Federation version when he won every round against Russia's Andrei Petriaev.

However, there was a disastrous end to the short reign of the WBF light welterweight champion Gary Ryder in his attempt to add Pablo Sarmiento's IBO title when the fight was stopped in round eight. Sarmiento is truly world class and Ryder was exposed.

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