Very much one from the closet classic archives, the NABF light-heavyweight battle former king Matthew Saad Muhammad and top contender Willie Edwards put on in 1984 really was/is a slugfest to see. And the fight had one quite shocking and unpredictable ending to boot.
Meeting at The Joe Louis Arena in February of 1984, Edwards and Muhammad quite literally knocked lumps out of each other for a little over 11-rounds. Edwards, a 29 year old tough and also sometimes slick 175 pounder from Detroit, was 17-1(14) upon entering the ring with the legendarily tough Muhammad. The sole loss Edwards had suffered, at the hands of Pete McIntyre, was soon avenged and sage boxing fans knew how good Edwards was. Muhammad, 33-6-2(25) and just over two years on from being a world champion, had seen better days, he had been in too many wars to keep track of, yet he was still a great, proud fighter.
The action unfolded in mesmerising fashion, the pace relentless from the get-go. Edwards was taking it to Muhammad, testing the former champ’s incredible chin hard. It was pretty much toe-to-toe type stuff, with the younger man by a year piling up points. But no fight involving Saad was over ’til it was over. Too many times had fans been left breathless over the manner in which a seemingly beaten Muhammad would, somehow, come roaring back to get the win – the phrase, ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’ never having been more apt for any other fighter.
But the miracle comeback never came against Edwards, and Muhammad, stuck on the ropes and fatigued in the 11th, took something like twenty unanswered shots from an on-fire Edwards. Finally, way too late, the ref dived in and saved Muhammad. Still, the former ruler who had an uncanny ability to absorb brutal amounts of leather and not go down questioned the stoppage; walking with the referee, his face in his, asking, no, demanding, WHY he had stopped the fight.
Edwards was celebrating wildly, looking at the former champ he had just beaten as he did so. And Muhammad didn’t like it. Not one bit. Then all hell broke loose. Saad walked bang up to Edwards and then started fighting again! Edwards didn’t hesitate, throwing more punches of his own. It was a crazy three or four-second spell of afters, the third man finally getting control of things as seconds and other guys piled into the ring.
On a different day, Muhammad might have faced a severe punishment, a ban for life even. Instead, after a substantial amount of time out of the ring, Muhammad fought again in January of 1986 – and he fought on until 1992. Muhammad, a truly incredible fighter, passed away in 2014 at age 59.
Edwards had won the biggest fight of his career, and the man who had scored wins over Willie Monroe (in Monroe’s final fight) and Jeff Lampkin, would go on to take out future champ Donnie Lalonde and challenge Bobby Czyz for the IBF crown (losing in two-rounds but sending Czyz down in the opening session of a memorable six-minute war).
Muhammad featured in many epics, and Edwards cut his teeth in some rough and tough encounters. The fight these two had inside a legendary arena over 35 years ago is one well worth checking out. Thank heavens for YouTube.