Dwight Muhammad Qawi - The Second Greatest Ever Cruiserweight

dwight braxton23.04.07 - By James Slater: In some ways, Dwight Muhammad Qawi reminds me of Joe Frazier. Like Joe before him, he is best remembered for his fights with a man who overshadowed him. Joe had Muhammad Ali, while Dwight had Evander Holyfield. Certainly, the first fight between “The Camden Buzz Saw,” - as appropriate a moniker as Frazier’s “Smokin’” nickname - and “The Real Deal” is the cruiserweight equivalent of “The Thrilla in Manila.” Dwight’s fighting style is not dissimilar to that of Philadelphia’s finest, either. Like Joe, having to overcome a height and reach disadvantage almost every time he fought, his work-rate and intensity were formidable. His chin, too, was rock-solid. And there are other similarities.

Joe still has very little time for Ali, and Dwight seemingly hasn’t too much respect for Evander. Joining the number of critics who claim the four-time heavyweight king used steroids throughout his long career, Dwight laid into the forty-four year old earlier this year on this theme. Claiming Evander used some illegal and energy reviving substance in their classic 1986 title
fight, Qawi flat-out called Holyfield a cheat.

Such a shame it is, that one former great has to attack another. Still, Qawi is not alone in suspecting Evander of wrongdoing. Enough of this subject, though. Instead, let’s look back at a man many feel is the second best cruiserweight in boxing history. Second only, of course, to the man who beat him twice in titanic battles, in Evander Holyfield.

After a respectably long reign as light heavyweight champion in the early 1980’s, Qawi, originally known as Dwight Braxton, moved up to the still relatively new weight class of cruiserweight. He had seen his tenure as a 175 pound champion - a reign that saw him beat the legendary Matthew Saad Muhammad twice - end with a fifteen round points loss to Michael Spinks, in
1983. After a few more fights above 175, Dwight moved up full time to the division that would afford him another chance at becoming a world champion.

In July of 1985, Dwight travelled to South Africa to take on local man Piet Crous for his WBA 195 pound championship. Qawi scored two knockdowns in round number eleven and was a title holder once more. The new division may not have been the most respected one in world boxing - as is still the case today, of course - but Dwight was back on top. Only one successful defence
followed - a six round beating of Michaels’ brother, Leon, the following year - before Qawi boxed the fight for which he is probably best known among fans. And while defending a title just the once may make claims of a fighter being the second best in his division seem fanciful, such distinction goes a long way towards being valid in Dwight’s case due to the sheer greatness of the fight in which he lost his belt. Okay, he may not have had a long reign at 195 pounds, but Qawi WAS definitely one of his weight classes’ very best. Who from today’s cruiserweight division, for example, could have beaten the winner or loser from that incredible July, 1986 epic?

Both men gave it everything they had. For fifteen rounds the two men pounded away at one another. Holyfield, at twenty-three, was a decade the younger fighter. It showed. And despite the recent claims from the loser to the contrary, it was sheer fitness enabled work-rate and guts from the man from Atlanta that enabled him to win. Setting a bristling pace, “The Real Deal” boxed a great fight. But so did the defending champ. In some of the middle rounds it seemed as though Evander’s shot had come too soon. This was only his twelfth fight, and some felt he was biting off more than he could chew with the seasoned Qawi. Holyfield dug deep, though, and managed to reach the finish line. After a fight that without doubt remains THE best ever at 195 pounds, a split decision was announced. He had been in the fight of his life, but Evander had done it. He was the new WBA belt holder.

Dwight grumbled to Alex Wallau while being interviewed, feeling he’d done enough to keep his title. Who knows, maybe a deep grudge against his successor was born in “The Camden Buzz Saw” right there. This would certainly explain the derogatory remarks he came out with earlier this year. Whatever the case, a rematch would be fought just over a year later. This time, however, despite a general feeling that fight number two would simply see the two men continuing to knock lumps out of each other, a swift ending came to pass.

In the fourth, Evander sent Dwight to the canvas. Twice. After the second of these knockdowns a totally beaten Qawi remained on the canvas and the action was over with. Clearly, Holyfield had improved since the first meeting. But, looking back today, Dwight’s performances were nothing to be ashamed of. He tested the man now known as the all-time best in the division like no-one else ever would. And to repeat, who else, either before or since, would have been favoured to have beaten either the winner or loser from the 1986 fight? I think Dwight’s ranking, as the second best cruiserweight in history, is fair.

Giving it a go up at heavyweight, in so doing refusing to quit the sport just yet, Dwight ran into the come backing George Foreman. Here too, Qawi had his moments. Despite being no heavyweight, he took the fight to Big George right from the get go. He landed some flush shots on the former heavyweight king’s head and jaw, but his power level was insufficient to trouble the returning former champ. Qawi quit in the seventh, due to tiredness as much as anything. He hadn’t been KO’d, though, once again showing his toughness and solid chin.

There was only one way to go, and that was down. Fighting at around the 190-200 pound mark, Dwight slowly but surely worked his way towards one last title shot. He boxed winning fights during this time period, against the likes of Tyrone Booze and Everett “Big Foot” Marten, and was rewarded in late 1989 with a crack at his old cruiserweight belt. Fighting the much younger and once beaten Robert Daniels for the vacant WBA title, Dwight almost pulled it off. He came within a whisker of regaining his old belt, but instead lost a split decision in a fight held in France.

Again, Dwight’s high ranking among the cruiserweights in history is valid, I feel. When one considers the fact that he almost became champion again, while pushing forty years of age, his genuine greatness at 195 pounds has to be recognised; substantial title defences or not.

Dwight soldiered on until 1998, losing some while winning others. His last fight of significance came in 1992, a points loss to Nate Miller. He finally retired after a UD loss to Tony LaRosa. In all, he was only ever stopped twice - by Holyfield in the rematch, and by a heavyweight in George Foreman. Hall of Fame credentials to be sure. Indeed, Dwight is enshrined at Canastota.

His other achievements aside, Dwight is best known for his two defeats at the hands of the man who stands above him in cruiserweight history. Like Joe Frazier before him, he may have been somewhat overshadowed by his most famous rival, but his own unique place among the pantheon of boxing greats is well established.

Article posted on 23.04.2007

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