Former American Light Heavyweight Champion Matthew Saad Muhammad passed away over the weekend at the age of 59. Saad Muhammad, the orphan who became world champion is rembered by most Zambian boxing fans for having inflicted the first defeat on Zambia’s rising star Lottie Mwale when they met in the US for the WBC title belt.
Lottie Mwale, arguably one of the best boxers to come out of Zambia, had conquered Africa and Europe and many Zambians fully believed that he was going to conquer America and become World Champion, only to wake up on the morning of November 29 1980 to the news that their boxing idol had failed to conquer the world.
Matthew Saad Muhammad known for his bruising style whose rags-to-riches-to-rags life story began in abandonment and nearly ended in homelessness, died on Sunday in Philadelphia, where for many years he had been a local hero.
The cause of death was uncertain, but he had received a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, said Kevin J. Roberts, a spokesman for Resources for Human Development, a nonprofit social services group for which Saad Muhammad worked as an advocate for the homeless.
In the late 1970s, early 1980s, Saad was making between $250,000 and $500,000 for some fights, but no one was looking out for his finances. He had bought a beautiful home in Elkins Park and it was decorated by one of the most expensive interior designers in the Philadelphia area. He did not own it for long. He had a beautiful wife—she later left him.
Years later, he told his friends that those closest to him in boxing had borrowed money from him and never paid him back.
He was so broke he sold his championship belts, robes, trophies, everything he had earned in boxing, just to pay his bills. He lived in the basement of a friend’s home for a brief time around 1999.
Through all his down times, Matthew remained friendly and outgoing and he never lost his movie-star looks.
Below is the fight with Lottie Mwale. Where were you and what was that day like as a Zambian boxing fan. Share your memories