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Funeral held for slain South African champion Sanders

Boxer Corrie Sanders waves the South African flag after weighing in at 235 pounds in Los Angeles, April 22, 2004. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Boxer Corrie Sanders waves the South African flag after weighing in at 235 pounds in Los Angeles, April 22, 2004. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former world heavyweight boxing champion Corrie Sanders, shot dead in a robbery, was laid to rest at a funeral in South Africa on Monday with friends saying he was a gentle man who gave his life to save others.

Sanders, 46, was shot in the arm and the stomach when robbers raided a restaurant near Brits, in North West Province, where he and other family members were attending a birthday party for his nephew nine days ago.

Relatives said Sanders used his body to shield his daughter when the robbers started shooting.

"He was a gentle giant - a guy who was dangerous in the ring but harmless outside of it," boxing promoter Nick Durandt told reporters after the funeral held at a church in Pretoria and attended by hundreds of mourners.

Police last week arrested three suspects - all Zimbabwean citizens - who appeared before a court in Brits, 80 km northwest of Johannesburg, on Monday to face charges of murder and armed robbery, SAPA news agency said.

Southpaw Sanders, nicknamed "The Sniper" because of his fierce and quick left, won the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) heavyweight title in 2003 with a surprise knockout of Ukraine's Vladimir Klitschko. He lost only four of his 46 professional fights.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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