Having already been on quite a journey – from prison to the light-heavyweight title, from obscurity to fame, from a stint in crime to the life of a devout Muslim – Dwight Muhammad Qawi undertook another journey on July 27th, 1985. The former 175 pound king who had lost his belt in a unification showdown with Michael Spinks had then, either (depending on your view) “eaten his way out of the weight class” or “had nothing left to fight at light-heavyweight,” and he made the move to cruiserweight.
A new weight division at the time, and a much maligned one for many years to come, the 190 pound weight class suited the 32 year old Qawi. And so it was that, after having picked up four solid wins after being outpointed by Spinks and his Jinx, Qawi travelled to Sun City in Apartheid-gripped South Africa to challenge recently crowned WBA cruiserweight champ Piet Crous.
The unbeaten Crous was quite a hero in South Africa. The skilled boxer with fast hands and plenty of heart had beaten the tricky Ossie Ocasio to take the WBA strap in 1984; on the card that saw South African heavyweight star Gerrie Coetzee lose his title in a controversial fight with Greg Page. Crous suffered a nasty cut eye in the Ocasio fight, yet he battled his way to a 15 round unanimous decision at the Superbowl. Ocasio, interestingly enough, would go on to defeat Qawi by decision in a 1987 non-title fight.
As for new champ Crous, he made one retention of the belt; getting up from a knockdown to halt Randy Stevens in the third-round, this fight also taking place at the Superbowl. Then Crous, two years younger than his next challenger, took on “The Camden Buzzsaw.”
In the fight it was all Qawi. Unfazed by the unfamiliar enviroment, the boos, the long distance from home, a turned on Qawi never gave Crous time to breathe. Crous pumped out as many punches as he could but Qawi’s relentless pressure was too much.
“Crous was a good boxer. He was fast and he threw a lot of combinations,” Qawi told this writer some time ago when recalling the fight of 1985. “Yeah, he was real fast. But I broke him down – old style.”
That Qawi did. Hurting the defending champ in the ninth with his right hand to the head, Qawi saw the champion almost fold as he was on the ropes. Crous sucked it up and battled through the tenth, before Qawi, the smell of blood in his snarling nostrils, went for and got the kill. Two painful knockdowns saw Qawi rip the belt away from Crous; in doing so the man born Dwight Braxton became a two-time champ.
Qawi had better, more celebrated fights during his Hall of Fame career (see his action fights with Matthew Saad Muhammad, Evander Holyfield, Leon Spinks and even George Foreman!) but becoming a champ all over again is always a sweet deal. Crous, very much a forgotten champion today, was never the same after facing the wrath of Qawi; the South African retiring after being stopped by Freddy Rafferty in 1987.
An interesting episode in the history of the cruiserweight division.