Hall of Fame boxer Matthew Saad Muhammad dies at 59
Bob Velin, USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Saad Muhammad, who was involved in some of boxing's most exciting fights during his Hall of Fame career, died Sunday morning at Chestnut Hill Hospital in his hometown of Philadelphia. He was 59.
The cause of death was not announced.
Saad Muhammad won the WBC light-heavyweight title in 1979 and went on to defend it eight times before losing by TKO to Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1981. He retired in 1992 with a 49-16-3 record (35 KOs) and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.
"Matthew Saad Muhammad was one of the most exciting boxers of all time. His drama-filled fights were thrilling and he was a real fan favorite," Hall of Fame Executive Director Edward Brophy said in announcing Saad Muhammad's death. "We join the boxing community in mourning his passing and offer our condolences to his family."
Saad Muhammad was born Maxwell Antonio Loach on June 16, 1954 in Philadelphia. His mother died when he was five. He was taken in by his aunt, but was soon abandoned. When he was found by police on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, he was taken to the Catholic Social Services, where the nuns gave him the first name Matthew, after the saint, and the last name Franklin, after the parkway on which he was found.
"(My brother) took me out in the city, where I wouldn't know where I was or how to find my way home, and ran away from me," Saad Muhammad told One Step Away, a newspaper produced by residents of city shelters, earlier this year. "I tried to run after him. I ran as fast as I could. I was 5 years old and I was running for my life."
He turned pro in 1974 as Matthew Franklin and later changed his name to Matthew Saad Muhammad. He captured the WBC title with an 8th round TKO against Marvin Johnson in 1979. Eight successful defenses followed including wins against John Conteh, Yaqui Lopez, Murray Sutherland and Jerry Martin before losing the belt to another Hall of Famer, Dwight Qawi, in 1981.
Saad Muhammad's 1980 bout with Lopez was named "Fight of the Year" by Ring Magazine, and the eighth round of that fight was named the eighth greatest of all time.
In the epic 1980 title defense against Lopez, The Philadelphia Inquirer said Saad Muhammad absorbed roughly 70 straight punches without returning a blow. But he did not go down and recovered to win by technical knockout, living up to his nickname, "Miracle Matthew."
Saad Muhammad converted to Islam early in his career and adopted the name he would keep for the rest of his life. According to The Inquirer, he tracked down his family, but said his aunt was only interested in collecting a $10,000 reward the fighter had offered if anyone could locate her.
The fighter became homeless four years ago and lived in a city shelter, but had his own place in North Philadelphia at the time of his passing, The Inquirer said. Saad Muhammad became an advocate for the homeless, teaming with One Step Away. He was the spokesman for their "Knock Out Homelessness" campaign.
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