Reminiscing About Saad Muhammad

By Robert Mladinich on June 10, 2014
Reminiscing About Saad Muhammad
"He was always happy, when he had money and when he didn't.” (Teddy B. Blackburn)

He was known as “Miracle Matthew” for the resilience he often displayed in fighting back from the brink of defeat to emerge victorious in high-profile bouts…

The Philadelphia fistic fraternity turned out in droves for the funeral of former light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad on June 5. Prior to the mid-morning service at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in the Germantown section of the City of Brotherly Love, scores of ex-fighters milled around reminiscing about Saad, who was known as “Miracle Matthew” for the resilience he often displayed in fighting back from the brink of defeat to emerge victorious in high-profile bouts.

Fighting between 1974 and 1992, Saad compiled a record of 49-16-3 (35 KOs) against the best the light heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions had to offer. 

Saad, who was 59 when he passed away on May 25, was best known for his two battles with Yaqui Lopez, which from a historical perspective are as memorable as the Ali-Frazier and Gatti-Ward rivalries.

Although Saad won both fights by TKO, they were as competitive as they were mesmerizing. Lopez, who lives in Stockton, California, made the trip to Philly to bid adieu to his most memorable opponent. 

Saad’s hardscrabble life has been well-documented, so there is no need to write any more about that here. What is important is to celebrate his life, through the words of those who knew and loved him: 

Yaqui Lopez, perhaps the most popular light heavyweight in history to never win a title:

“Matthew was a great man, and we made many memories together. We mixed it up for 25 rounds and made history. People remember me because of him. When I heard he passed, I had to be here. I’m here because I have to be here.”

Dwight Muhammad Qawi, former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion:
“He was a man of great character, a kind person with a kind spirit. No matter what happened to him in life, he had gratitude. Up or down, he was always smiling.” 

Tim Witherspoon, former heavyweight title holder:
“When I was younger I wanted to fight like Saad. Everyone in Philly wanted to fight like Saad. But Slim (trainer Slim Robinson) wouldn’t let me. Only Saad could fight like Saad. I was with him in England eight months ago, training an Indian heavyweight. We were dealing with promoters from Pakistan and Afghanistan. We were going to go to India to train the guy, but he broke his leg. This all happened so fast. It’s very sad.”

Curtis Parker, former middleweight contender:
“He accomplished a lot, but he was a humble man. He enjoyed his reign, and he enjoyed life. His life had purpose.”

Richie Kates: longtime light heavyweight contender and title challenger:
“He was a real warrior in the ring, as we saw throughout the years. But outside of the ring, he was a good man, a true gentleman.”

Bobby “Boogoloo” Watts, longtime middleweight contender who holds a win over Marvin Hagler:
“We did a lot of good sparring, and became good friends. He was a great fighter, and a real good friend. I miss him. We all miss him. He was that kind of person. The best!” 

Larry Hazzard, longtime referee who came to prominence when he wisely halted a bout between Saad and Jerry “The Bull” Martin in 1981, and then put Howard Cosell in his place on national television when Cosell criticized the stoppage:
“That fight brought me to prominence, front and center in the boxing world. Saad and I developed a great relationship after that, and we always remained friends. Everyone was Matthews’s friend. Just look around at the turnout today.”

Nate Miller, former cruiserweight title holder:
“Matthew and I auditioned together for the ‘Rocky V’ movie. We had a lot of the same experiences in life, both coming out of foster care. We had a closeness to each other and were very cool.”

Mike Everett, junior welterweight contender of the 1970s:
“We started out together in Nick Belfiore’s gym and we went through the amateurs and nationals together. We were good friends from the beginning, and throughout life. He was a great guy, always happy, when he had money and when he didn’t. I’m gonna miss him.”

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  1. Loretta 01:40pm, 12/22/2014

    Where can I purchase all the DVDS of Matt Saad Mulhammond Franklin’s career??

  2. peter 03:14pm, 08/07/2014

    This article is a eulogy—the words and sentiments expressed in this piece are on point and appropriate. The entire Franklin Family can be proud of an article of this nature.

  3. Tex Hassler 05:59am, 06/15/2014

    I never saw Matthew in a dull fight. He was real action fighter. We are praying for his family and friends who miss him.

  4. peter 12:22pm, 06/12/2014

    The after-glow of Saad’s remarkable life will never dim—especially with wonderful articles like this. Thanks, Bob Mladinich.

  5. Mike Casey 10:21am, 06/12/2014

    Enjoyed this greatly, Bob.

  6. bikermike 03:42pm, 06/11/2014

    Sympathies and prayers for his Family and friends.

    For the Family….just look at those who showed up to celebrate the life of Saad .  THose people came there for you, to make sure you know in this time of loss….you have friends and people who support you.

    Saad is in Paradise…the rest of remember him ...fondly and with respect.

  7. Pete 01:49pm, 06/11/2014

    Great reportage, Bob. “I’m here because I have to be here.” Yaqui Lopez is still stunning.

  8. Steven Stahler 10:16am, 06/11/2014

    Pardon all my typos in that last one. I must be missing a finger or something.

  9. Steven Stahler 10:15am, 06/11/2014

    Before the day when money talked fighters like him ruled the game. Today they are a dying breed.  The fighters from the 70’s-90’s fought often and fought the best there was. No such thing as a warm up. These guys were armed up when the awoke in the morning. Blood and guts, no divas. They would walk through most of the top fighters today. You did not find many multi weight class champions because to go form MW to LH was at least a 10 pound jump.  Sad to see Saad go. Humble is hard to find these days too.

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