Happy Birthday Dwight Muhammad Qawi – “The Camden Buzzsaw” Hits 70

01/05/2023 - By James Slater - Comments

Former light-heavyweight and cruiserweight ruler Dwight Muhammad Qawi turns 70 today. Known as “The Camden Buzzsaw” during his long ring career, the man born Dwight Braxton is for so many fight fans a genuine favourite. Standing just 5’6” and possessing a reach of 71-inches, Qawi was nevertheless able to defeat much bigger guys, often by outjabbing them.

Qawi, at his best at 175 pounds, was a go-all-night ball of fire who, having a brilliantly subtle defence and being armed with stamina to burn, would take an opponent’s jab away from them, get on the inside and go to work. Hard. Qawi was awesome to watch, his perpetual motion, his blazing hands, his mean streak (Qawi grinned through his gumshield as he dished out the punishment, enjoying every second of things) endearing him to fans. And Qawi had a chin, he could take it as well as dish it out if he had to.

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Learning his trade behind bars, a 25 year old Qawi, having had zero amateur fights, went pro in 1978 and, after a couple of initial setbacks, he made astonishing progress. The former inmate at Rahway scored his breakthrough win in May of 1981, this when, in his 16th pro fight, he beat Mike Rossman, stopping “The Jewish Bomber” in the 7th round. There was no stopping Qawi now. Although Dwight, still known as Braxton at this time, did go back to Rahway State Prison – for a fight with James Scott.

Fighting in front of the guys he had done time with, Qawi was the star attraction and he pounded out a ten round decision win over Scott. The winner had been promised a shot at Matthew Saad Muhammad, the reigning WBC light-heavyweight champ. That December, in what was the now 16-1-1 Qawi’s fifth fight of the year, “The Buzzsaw” chopped up and then spat out a drained, thoroughly beaten Muhammad over the course of 10 painful rounds. There was no miracle for Matthew on this night.

Qawi was the new king. Dwight changed his name to Qawi, having adopted the Muslim faith, and he set about defending his belt with a firm eye on unifying the division. Defences came in the form of stoppage wins over Jerry Martin, Muhammad in a return, and Eddie Davis. Qawi then fought WBA light-heavyweight ruler Michael Spinks. Qawi managed to hang tough for all 15 rounds, yet the recent passing of his father and a damaged nose hindered him, with Spinks and his “Jinx” taking the UD in March of ’83.

Qawi, now aged 30, made the move up to cruiserweight; which was still a relatively new division at the time. Qawi strung together four wins, each of them coming via decision victory, before he travelled to South Africa to grind down Piet Crous to take the WBA belt.

Then, after administering a one-sided hammering to Leon Spinks, came the fight Qawi is best known for. Enter Evander Holyfield and the single greatest fight in cruiserweight history.

Fans know all about the boxing classic, indeed epic, Qawi and Holyfield forever immortalised themselves with in the summer of 1986. For 15 rounds, the two warriors punched the hell out of each other. It was breath-taking, it was savage. It was the Fight of the Decade. Holyfield, who so depleted himself that he had to go to hospital to have the 14-pounds of fluid he had lost put back into his body via intravenous drip, won via split decision. Holyfield wanted to retire from the sport afterwards, so gruelling, so taxing had the fight/war been.

Qawi had fought his last great fight.

Stopped in four sessions in the return with Holyfield, Qawi then made the audacious decision to move up to heavyweight to face the comebacking George Foreman! Out of shape at a fleshy 222 pounds, Qawi still managed to bounce some right hands off Foreman’s shaven head, this before Qawi ran out of gas and quit during the 7th round of a pretty bizarre fight (“there’s a full moon out tonight,” quipped commentator Al Bernstein when calling the fight along with former Foreman trainer Gil Clancy).

Qawi was now 35 and his best days had passed him by. Still he fought on, even coming within a whisker of winning the vacant WBA cruiserweight title in November of 1989, when Dwight dropped a split decision to Robert Daniels. Qawi finally retired in November of 1998, having been inactive from October of 1992 to May of ’97. Qawi’s final numbers read 41-11-1(25). Only Holyfield in the rematch, and Foreman who was far too big for him, ever managed to stop Qawi.

Qawi went into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.

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