Matthew Saad Muhammad is Dead; Boxing Champ Called Philly Home
The New York Times reports: “Matthew Saad Muhammad, a former boxing champion known for his bruising style whose rags-to-riches-to-rags life story began in abandonment and nearly ended in homelessness, died on Sunday in Philadelphia, where for many years he had been a local hero. He was thought to be 59.”
FEW FIGHTERS GOT HIT in the head more than Matthew Saad Muhammad.
Frank Gelb, who managed Matthew until 1980, says it; Neil Gelb, Frank’s son, who hung with Matthew as a kid and has stayed close ever since, says it; and so does J Russell Peltz, a longtime Philly boxing promoter.
Even Matthew himself says it: “I still feel some of those punches.”
He turned pro in 1974 and was immediately reaching for the brass ring. He lost just three bouts in his first 18 fights—two to future champs Marvin Camel and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. In 1977, he knocked out veteran Marvin Johnson in the 12th round to win the North American Boxing Federation light heavyweight crown. In 1979, he fought for the world title, again against Marvin Johnson, and scored a knockout to win. He defended his world title eight times, winning them all, seven by knockout. But when the glory ended, he kept fighting, and he was frequently battered and bruised and overmatched.
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