THE STORY of Matthew Saad Muhammad is one of the most compelling in boxing. Abandoned as a child, he fought his way to the light heavyweight championship and now the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Born Maxwell Antonio Loach, his mother died when he was five years old. He and his older brother moved in with an aunt, but she couldn’t afford to raise both children so she instructed the older brother to get rid of his sibling. Saad Muhammad was then led to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where his older brother simply ran away from him. Saad Muhammad remembered how hard he tried to keep up with his brother, but couldn’t. When the police found him, they took him to the Catholic Social Services and the nuns gave him the name Matthew, after the saint, and Franklin, after the parkway where he was found.
He turned pro in his native Philadelphia in 1974 under the name the nuns had given him -- Matthew Franklin. It wouldn't take long before everyone in the boxing world knew his name. He took an aggressive path to the top and after just 18 pro fights he was saddled with three losses and two draws. Each setback, though, came against quality opposition. His losses were to future champions Marvin Camel and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and one of the draws came against another future champ, Mate Parlov.
In 1977, in just his 21st pro fight, Matthew knocked out veteran Marvin Johnson in the 12th round to win the NABF light heavyweight crown. He defended that title with wins over Billy Douglas, Richie Kates and Yaqui Lopez.
By 1979, he was ready to challenge for the world title and the WBC champion was his old nemesis, Marvin Johnson. They met on April 22nd in Johnson's hometown of Indianapolis and the showdown was a classic. Bleeding from cuts above both eyes, Matthew scored an eighth-round knockout to win the title. The Eighth Round of that fight was named "Round of the Year" by The Ring magazine. Shortly after becoming champion, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Matthew Saad Muhammad.
Saad Muhammad was an action fighter who displayed tremendous recuperative powers in the ring. He was often hurt, but rarely stopped. Saad Muhammad was known throughout his career for his immense heart and his numbing power. He made eight successful world title defenses, seven of which came by knockout. Among his victims were John Conteh (W15, KO 4), Louis Pergaud (KO 5), Yaqui Lopez (KO 14), Lotte Mwale (KO 4), Vonzell Johnson (KO 11), Murray Sutherland (KO 9) and Jerry Martin (KO 11).
Finally, on December 19, 1981, Saad Muhammad ran into Dwight Muhammad Qawi and lost the crown via 10th-round knockout. In a rematch with Qawi eight months later, he was stopped in the sixth round.
Saad's 1980 title defense against Yaqui Lopez was named "Fight of the Year" by The Ring magazine. The first half of the fight was dominated by Lopez and in Round Eight (also named "Round of the Year") Lopez pinned Saad Muhammad in a corner and landed 20 consecutive blows. That served as a wakeup call. Saad Muhammad dominated the remainder of the fight and scored a 14th-round knockout. "Matthew Miracle" had done it again.