*It always pains me when I have to tell you about another fighter who has left us. And it’s no exception in this case because I’m talking about one of the best light heavyweights of the modern era, Matthew Saad Muhammad.
Besides the fact that this was indeed the most talented, rugged, and slick pugilist to come out of Philadelphia during the late 70’s and went on to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, it’s the story of his life and how it evolved in the ring and out that’s most fascinating.
He was born Maxwell Antonio Loach on June 16, 1954 and as the story goes, he and his brother were sent to live with an aunt in Philadelphia after his mother died when he was five years old.
At the time this happened his aunt found it to be too much of a financial burden to take care of him. So she sent his brother out on a mission to get rid of him by taking him out on the outskirts of the city and abandoned him without him knowing what was going on.
He recalled the incident in a recent interview, ” I saw my brother running away and I tried to keep up with him but I just couldn’t and I stopped running.” Eventually a police officer came by and took him into the precinct where he couldn’t even remember his name.
So two nuns came to his rescue and took him in as an orphan eventually renaming him Matthew ( after the the apostle in the bible) Franklin ( named after the location where he was found, Ben Franklin Parkway)
Going through school everyone picked on him because he was an orphan, and as he recalled, he use to get beat up every day. So after getting tired of that he desired to learn how to defend himself and started to hang around the Legendary Blue Horizon where promoter Russell Peltz used to put on some of the best fights on television, and that’s how he got into boxing.
He loved watching the fights so much that he wanted to be a fighter himself.
After having a short amateur career that consisted of only 20 fights, he went professional as a light heavyweight and continued to win against game opponents that eventually lead him to a shot at the light heavyweight title held by Marvin Johnson whom he stopped in the eight round and became the WBC light heavyweight champion.
He went on to defend the title eight times, and throughout his pro career he accumulated a total of 5 million dollars in purses.
But he eventually became a victim of alcohol, and drug addiction that led him to be homeless and living in a shelter. And it seemed that his life had become full circle.
After a few years of rehab he finally got a grip on his life and began to turn it around and started working as an advocate for the homeless.
He recently became inflicted with disease called lateral sclerosis that he eventually died from on May 25 2014 at age 59.
Matthew Saad Muhammad was one of boxing’s greatest light heavyweight champions and his legacy will forever be cemented into the halls of the sport. Our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and may God’s peace and blessings be upon him.
Mohammed Mubarak’s Ringside Update can be also read in the Inland Valley News, The High Desert Inland Valley News, and the Pace News. And he can be reached at [email protected] for your comments.