Remembering “The Camden Buzzsaw,” Dwight Muhammad Qawi

dwight qawiby James Slater - After learning how to fight in prison in the early 1970s, the great Dwight Muhammad Qawi - the man who would go on to achieve worldwide fame as "The Camden Buzzsaw" - turned pro and set about providing the light-heavy and cruiserweight division with some of the best fights in boxing history. In April of '78 in Washington D.C., after having had absolutely no amateur career, Dwight boxed a six-round draw with a guy named Leonard Langley. Following the draw, and then a points win and then a points loss, the 25-year-old romped to a straight 18 wins; during which time he captured the WBC 175-pound world title. Beating the legendarily-tough Matthew Saad Muhamad, via a 10th-round TKO in 1981, Braxton soon after changed his surname to Qawi; due to how he'd adopted the Muslim faith.

Three retentions followed, including a second stoppage win over Saad Muhammad, before Dwight ran into WBA light-heavyweight champ Michael Spinks. A disappointing 15-round points loss later, Qawi announced he was moving up in weight. Eventually weighing-in at around 190-pounds, the 5'6" fighter, who could be aggressive and also box in a deceptively effective defensive manner, won his second "world" title.

Travelling to Sun City in South Africa in 1985, Qawi hammered Piet Crous to defeat in the 11th-round to win the WBA cruiserweight title. It was after just one successful defence, against former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks (a brutal 6th-round TKO) that the now 26-2-1 Qawi had the fight he is almost certainly most well known for today. The July, 1986 fifteen-round war with the unbeaten former Olympian Evander Holyfield almost instantly went into the record books as an absolute classic.

Much has been written about the split decision that was won by "The Real Deal," not least the fact that Qawi today believes Evander was “taking something” during the fight - even being administered something suspicious between rounds of the epic fight (something that gave the young Evander amazing stamina). We will never know for sure if Qawi was, as he puts it, "cheated out of history along with my title," but the fight remains a fan-favourite either way.

Sadly, it was pretty much all downhill for the now 33-year-old Qawi after the Holyfield loss; just his third setback in eight years. Ossie Ocasio out-pointed him over ten-rounds, and then, in a rematch, Holyfield became the first man to stop "The Camden Buzzsaw" as he sent him down and out in the 4th-round in 1987. Quite bizarrely, Qawi then moved up to heavyweight (at just 5'6"!) and fought the come-backing George Foreman. Though he cracked Foreman with some good overhand rights in the early rounds of the March, '88 fight, an overweight Qawi soon ran out of gas and quit.

Amazingly, the veteran had one more world title fight ahead of him. Even more surprisingly, Qawi came desperately close to winning it! Facing the once-beaten Robert Daniels for the vacant WBA cruiserweight title, a near-37-year-old Qawi lost a split decision in late 1989. That probably should have been the end for the ageing warrior, but Dwight soldiered on for a further nine years (there was a break of five years from '92 to '97). The former two-weight champion won nine and lost four - yet he was never stopped. In over 50 fights, only Holyfield and the much bigger Foreman managed to halt Qawi.

Today, Dwight works with troubled kids in New Jersey where he lives in his apartment. It is to be hoped he enjoys his birthday today, and that he can maybe find the time to view some of his favourite ring performances. A Hall of Famer (enrolled in 2003) Dwight more than made his mark on the sport of boxing.

It’s truly amazing to me that no book has been written on this great fighter. Heck, Dwight’s story and accomplishments are deserving of the full movie treatment! The bluest of blue collar warriors, Qawi fought the best, always gave his best, and he never shouted about it when he won. In short, he was as old-school as they come. Or came.

Article posted on 11.02.2012

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