An interesting flashback to 2003 for what was a massive heavyweight upset that is still discussed amongst hardcore boxing heads today. Most remember Wladimir Klitschko as the dominant heavyweight from 2006 to 2015 but in 2003 he was the WBO titleholder seeking a fight with then champion Lennox Lewis. At 40-1 Wladimir held the WBO title and had five total defenses while building a significant profile on HBO. In that time he had defeated tough heavyweights like Ray Mercer, Franz Botha, Jameel McCline and Chris Byrd. Klitschko was on the cusp of a massive fight with then champion Lennox Lewis who was in the twilight of his career following massive title unification fights with Evander Holyfield and a super fight (as far as financials go) with Mike Tyson. At six feet and seven inches tall and weighing around 240 lbs. Wladimir Klitschko could match the size of Lewis and with an Olympic Gold Medal and solid jab he was well schooled enough to impose a serious threat. He did have a blemish on his record from a loss to Ross Purrity in 1998 where he was way ahead but gassed in front of his home crowd in Ukraine. Despite the defeat his reputation was still strong and he was viewed as a serious contender. Thirteen fighters were offered a chance to face Klitschko in an interim bout in the lead up to a Lewis showdown on HBO but thirteen all refused until South African Corrie “the sniper” Sanders took the fight in Klitschko’s adopted home of Germany. Sanders at thirty seven years old had only fought three rounds in three years after contemplating retirement following a stoppage loss to Hasim Rahman. During his career the 38-2 Sanders had defeated one time title challenger Bert Cooper, cruiserweight titleholder Al Cole, washed up 1980’s contender and Rocky 5 star Mike Williams, cruiserweight titlist Carlos DeLeon and Jersey’s own Bobby Czyz. If there was anything going for Sanders it was a hard left hand and quick hand speed.
The two hard hitting heavyweights began the contest with a cautious pace as both feared the other’s power. Klitschko seemed to control the action with his height and as two minutes passed in round one Wladimir struck first with a big jab. Seeing an advantage he scored on a left hook and right hand but Sanders countered the aggressive Klitschko and caught his attention with about a minute left in the round. Seeing the ease in which that straight left was getting through he stuck with the punch and dropped Wladimir with about thirty seconds to go. Still hurt from the onslaught, Wladimir went down again from a series of lefts and rights from Sanders. With HBO’s Larry Merchant calling the end of the next big thing, Wladimir went out for the next round. Wladimir fought as though he was still dazed or could not see the left. Either way he was dropped quickly and it was all over in just two rounds. Ring Magazine’s 2003 Upset of the Year saw the end of Klitschko vs Lewis at least until older brother Vitali got his shot. Fans now have to contemplate what could have occurred back in 2003 when two massive heavyweights were on the verge of colliding in a huge fight to unify all four belts though at that time the WBO was not taken as seriously as it is now.