Matthew Saad Muhammad Goes Home

By George Thomas Clark on May 26, 2014
Matthew Saad Muhammad Goes Home
I’m okay. I travel around. I just don’t remember where I go. (Christina Rose/One Step Away)

I defend my title six, seven, eight times. Most of my fights are wars and some say I take more punishment than guys I beat. That’s okay. That’s who I am…

Where you going big brother? Please don’t run so fast. I’m only five and can’t catch you and mommy’s dead and our aunt only wants you, I guess, and now I’m alone and it’s getting dark and cold and I’m scared someone’s going to get me I hope this policeman will help. I think he does. Or maybe God puts me on the steps of a Philadelphia church where nuns take me in and name me Matthew Franklin for an apostle and a patriot and they find a family to adopt me but that doesn’t work since I’m usually in reform school for getting beat up by guys who call me little orphan. Someday I’ll make them stop. In my teens I get bigger and go to the gym and fight as an amateur and in the streets lay out the last two guys who try me and in 1974 turn pro at age twenty-two.

I’m ready to take it to every guy I fight. I’m going to knock them out. I know I hit a lot harder and take more hard punches than anyone I’ve seen. Guys don’t like fighting me. Maybe they like it early because I’m easy to hit and they think I’m ready to go. But I’m not. I’ve got heart and stamina and the hardest body and head around and recover and win and in two years am already fighting contenders and in 1977 lose a close one I think I win against Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. That doesn’t slow me in a few months I fight Marvin Johnson and take ten times the left crosses he usually needs to knock guys out. I know he thinks I’m going. He thinks that until I grind him down in the twelfth round. In 1979 I fight Marvin Johnson for his world light heavyweight title that’s not really his it’s mine and he knows it when I batter him and he falls in the eighth and gets up but can’t take any more.

I’m champion of the world and happy to have so many friends at great parties in my homes and hotel rooms and cars I give away along with cash to help those who love me. The money’s rolling in as I beat slick John Conteh twice, pounding him in the fourth the second time, and in 1980 I defend my title against Yaqui Lopez and thrill everyone in the eighth while I throw nothing and he hits me forty, fifty, sixty times, maybe more, who the hell knows, fans think Yaqui’s finally going to get his title and he may get a title someday but he ain’t getting mine. Somehow — and I can’t explain it other than hard training and determination — I recover late in that eighth round and start hitting him and take over and knock him down four times in the fourteenth. My friends are happy and tell me, you’re the greatest champ ever. Can you help me out? Of course I can. I’m Matthew Saad Muhammad now but still a scared little boy on the cold streets of Philly. I’ll always help.

I defend my title six, seven, eight times. Most of my fights are wars and some say I take more punishment than guys I beat. That’s okay. That’s who I am. I’m going to take it to Dwight Braxton in 1981. I try to. I hit him hard as I hit the other guys but Braxton doesn’t blink, and he slugs like no one I’ve fought. I’m going to recover, though. I’m going to make another miracle. I’ll wear Dwight Braxton out. He won’t keep hitting me this hard. I hope he doesn’t. It’s difficult to see and stand much less fight. No one’s ever stopped me but in the tenth I know I’m beaten. All right. Just give me a tune-up and I’ll fight him again. I’ll box him this time. I’ll stick and move. That’s what I want to do but don’t know how and am an open target for Braxton’s devastating right hands. The guy’s only five-seven, more than four inches shorter, but somehow his arms are almost as long as mine and much stronger. I take six rounds of bombs from a tougher man and don’t argue when the referee stops it in the sixth.

I’m still only twenty-eight. I don’t think of retiring. How many champs my age have retired? I’m going to keep earning money. I need my homes and cars and to keep helping my friends. I’ve got about fifty close ones who’re always around. I’ve got to fight for them, too. In a few months I take on a guy named Eric Winbush. He’s got an eleven and six record and stops me in the third round. A year later I’m stopped again by someone and start fighting guys with little experience and losing records and some of them beat me but I’m mostly winning again until 1988 when I lose by technical knockout in the first round and I don’t remember all the facts but realize I’m losing lots of fights against unknowns and by 1992 lose three more in a row, twice getting stopped, and don’t need this anymore.

What’s the point? The money and glory are gone and so are my friends. I’m okay. I travel around. I just don’t remember where I go. Isn’t that strange? I must’ve been somewhere. In 2010 I understand where I am. I’m back on the streets of Philadelphia, not sure how long. I know enough one day to go to a homeless shelter and stay a few months. I’m doing much better now. I’ve got a little place. Boxing’s no damn good, you know. I’m light heavyweight champion of the world and have friends all over. I want to see them. I hope they’ll visit me. I’ve got Lou Gehrig’s disease and nobody beats that without a lot of help.

George Thomas Clark is the author of several books, most recently Death in the Ring, a collection of boxing stories, and The Bold Investor, a short story collection. See the author’s website at www.GeorgeThomasClark.com.

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Matthew Saad Muhammad Vs Dwight Muhammad Qawi l (Full Fight)



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Matthew Saad Muhammad vs John Conteh I



1980 FOTY Matthew Saad Muhammad vs. Yaqui López II



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  1. Jack 04:29pm, 05/28/2014

    Almost forgot, nice article GTC!!!!

  2. Jack 04:07pm, 05/28/2014

    Eric, I agree with you whole heartedly. I don’t know of any other era in the light heavyweight division that had the overall high level of skillsets and competiveness that, that era had? I know that during my lifetime there is not another era, but I can’t speak to earlier eras. The first fight I watched was Sugar Ray’s 1st comeback, 2nd fight, when he got upset by Ralph “Tiger” Jones on the Gillette fight of the Week, I was 7 years old ( 1955 ). It is 1978, I’m about 10 rows back from ringside at the Spectrum in Philly and Matt Franklin is fighting my friend Richie Kates for the NABF light heavyweight title. In the fourth round, Richie hits Matt with a right hand and he falls almost face first to the canvas. I don’t know how he managed to get up and beat the count with 3-4 seconds left in the round. He survived and 2 rounds later, TKO’s Richie, UNBELIVEABLE comeback. That was to become his “signature” MO for most of his career. What an exciting fighter he was. Pedro Fernandez characterized him as having “the heart and will of 10 men” in an article he penned. I can’t disagree with that assessment. RIP Saad!!!!

  3. Eric 07:30am, 05/27/2014

    nicolas…Will agree that none of those fighters would probably be in the top 10 of all-time light heavyweights but some like Qawi and a prime version of Saad could arguably ranked in the top 20. Between Foster and Spinks was loaded with some capable fighters that could’ve made their mark in any era. Title holders like Conteh, Galindez, Saad, Mustafa Muhammad, Marvin Johnson, Qawi could’ve given all-time greats like Foster, Moore, Conn, and others loads of trouble. The division was so deep with talent, it was like a boxing version of SEC college football. Mike Rossman, James Scott, Richie Kates, Jesse Burnett, Yaqui Lopez, Johnny & Eddie Davis, Jerry Martin were all good solid fighters. I would say that the light heavy division between ‘75-‘83 was even more talented than those heavyweights of the ‘70’s.

  4. George Thomas Clark 07:10am, 05/27/2014

    Fighters who have endless wars, no matter how tough they are, generally have shortened lives…

  5. nicolas 08:09pm, 05/26/2014

    Very difficult to say that Saad fought in the best Light heavyweight era ever. I would not put any of the fighters between Bob Foster and Michael Spinks in the top ten. But I think if you mean as far as competitiveness Eric. I think you are absolutely right. It was perhaps the most exciting division in the late 70’s, even more so than with Muhammad Ali in the heavyweight division at that time, and we all know how exciting that was during that era. It is so sad to here that this man fell on such hard times. How often do we hear that; Perhaps had some of his fights been closed circuit or pay per view, he could have made more money. He fought so often, and in so many tough fights before he was champ and after, that by 28 he was perhaps washed up, which was why he took such beatings from Dwight Tiger Qawi, not to say that Qawi might have won any way.

  6. Douglas Nareau 06:33pm, 05/26/2014

    Until Dwight Qawi separated Mohammed from his senses (twice) this was one of the very good Light Heavyweights in a golden era for the sport.  To put it bluntly, he was a crowd pleasing BMF. Lucky for us boxing fans, we are in the midst of another golden era for Light Heavies.

  7. Eric 04:07pm, 05/26/2014

    Saad fought in the best light heavyweight era of all time. So many good 175lbers back then. And the best part, the fights were free to view on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. His second fight with Johnson is still one of my all time favorite bouts. RIP.

  8. Darrell 03:01pm, 05/26/2014

    Hell…....

  9. Magoon 02:20pm, 05/26/2014

    He deserved better.

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