Sanders stuns Klitschko

Corrie Sanders (left) celebrates after knocking down Vladimir Klitschko in the second round of their WBO heavyweight fight at the Preussag Arena in Hanover. — Pic. REUTERS-Corrie Sanders (left) celebrates after knocking down Vladimir Klitschko in the second round of their WBO heavyweight fight at the Preussag Arena in Hanover. — Pic. REUTERS

SOUTH AFRICAN Corrie Sanders knocked out Vladimir Klitschko 27 seconds into the second round, stunning the Ukrainian in a major upset.

SOUTH AFRICAN Corrie Sanders knocked out Vladimir Klitschko 27 seconds into the second round, stunning the Ukrainian in a major upset.

Sanders caught Klitschko with a short hard left with 33 seconds left in the first round and the Ukrainian never really recovered, hitting the canvas three more times after being caught with the same hand.

Sanders captured the lightly regarded WBO title, which Klitschko was defending for the sixth time, amidst steady boos from 11,500 fans in the arena, angry at the short fight with the unexpected end.

Klitschko, already huge in Germany and the Ukraine, had been hoping to build his fan base in the United States. He made inroads last year by knocking out Ray Mercer and Jameel McCline, but the upset was a big-time setback.

"I'm certain I will come back, I'm certain I will be world champion," Klitschko said. "All great champions have been beaten, then came back. It happened to Ali, it's happened to Lennox Lewis too."

But it was the 37-year-old South African, who felt he had never been given a big fight, who was hugging his trainer and beaming afterwards.

"I gave myself big chances to beat him — I knew I could do it," Sanders said.

Sanders, 39-2 with 29 knockouts, had knocked out 18 opponents in the first round and was known as a fast starter, with many predicting before the fight he would charge out from the corner fast.

After a slow first two minutes, the left-hander stunned the 2.01 metre (6-foot-7) Klitschko with his first left hand.

Klitschko responded by mixing it up and they traded blows until Sanders' short left dropped him. After that the Ukrainian reeled around the ring for the rest of the fight, the bell saving him in the first round. In the second, a straight left finally ended it in 205 seconds.

"I wasn't planning that — it just happened that way during the fight," Sanders said of catching Klitschko early.

Klitschko, 40-2 with 37 knockouts, had just signed a nine-fight bout with HBO and had hoped to sell himself as the next big heavyweight in the United States. But maybe Klitschko suspected something in an interview before the fight.

"I read what's written about me, that the future belongs to me, how I'll dominate the heavyweight division for the next few years," Klitschko, 26, said. "But I know how fast that can be over — it just takes one blow."

Klitschko's older brother, Vitali, is ranked No. 1 by both the WBC and WBA and is in limbo waiting for a possible fight with reluctant champion Lennox Lewis.

Sanders has a reputation as boasting power and being fast for a 1.93 metre (6-foot-4) fighter and also being a southpaw, he is difficult for many opponents.

"Klitschko shouldn't have been so convinced of himself against a hard-hitting southpaw," said George Foreman. "But I think he'll come back."

Sanders had fought only three rounds since he lost a brawl against Hasim Rahman three years ago, a fight in which both boxers were knocked down before Sanders walked into a big seventh-round right hand.

His camp had said before the fight his career had never taken off because he couldn't land a TV deal in the United States.

Sanders said he used some advice from Ross Puritty, his sparring partner, to figure out how to beat Klitschko. The American journeyman handed the Ukrainian his only loss, several years ago in Kiev.

"Puritty helped me a lot, he helped me figure out a few things," Sanders said.

Vitali Klitschko blamed the outcome on Sanders catching his brother cold. "I think it was a lucky punch," he said. "Sanders had his chance and he used it."