JOHANNESBURG (AP) -An opposition party member in South Africa asked authorities on Tuesday to investigate if world heavyweight boxing champion Corrie Sanders was turned away from a hospital before he died of a gunshot wound.
Jack Bloom, a health spokesman for the Democratic Alliance, said an inquiry was needed to see if Sanders was denied treatment at Pretoria's Steve Biko Academic Hospital because he was shot by armed robbers outside the Pretoria area.
The former WBO champion died at another hospital in South Africa's capital city - the Kalahong Hospital - after he was shot in the arm and stomach at a family celebration at a restaurant in the town of Brits, in the neighboring North West province, on Saturday night.
"It is possible that his life could have been saved if he was treated at the specialist facilities at Steve Biko, rather than the lower-level Kalahong Hospital which has a poor reputation," Bloom said. "It is completely unlawful for a hospital to turn away a severely wounded patient based on where he sustained his injury."
Officials at the state hospital couldn't immediately be contacted for comment. It was reported that Sanders also couldn't go to a private hospital closer to where he was shot because he had no medical insurance.
Former world heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis and current titleholders Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have all paid tribute to Sanders, who died in the early hours of Sunday.
Sanders, who was 46, was one of only three men to beat Wladimir Klitschko when he knocked out the younger Klitschko brother in the second round for a shock victory to claim the WBO title in Germany in 2003. He was stopped by Vitali for the vacant WBC belt in 2004 after an eight-round battle in Los Angeles.
"We will remember Corrie as a great person both inside and outside the ring. He was a great fighter with a big heart who always positively represented the sport of boxing," the Ukrainian brothers said in a joint statement.
Lewis, the former undisputed heavyweight champion from Britain, said he was stunned "by the tragic death of my friend Corrie Sanders."
"He was (a) tremendous fighter inside the ring and a great man outside of it. The world's boxing fraternity has lost a brother, an ally, and a voice in South Africa," Lewis said.
Police had yet to make any arrests by Tuesday after Sanders was shot when a group of armed men entered the restaurant where he was celebrating the 21st birthday of his nephew with other family members.
Eyewitnesses said Sanders had lain down in front of his teenage daughter to protect her from the bullets when he was shot.