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Champion boxer Matthew Saad Muhammad dies at 59

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 27, 2014 at 10:30 am •  Published: May 27, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Former light heavyweight champion Matthew Saad Muhammad, who was abandoned as a child and rose to become "one of the most exciting boxers of all time" and later an advocate for the homeless after a stay in a shelter himself, has died. He was 59.

Saad Muhammad died Sunday at a Philadelphia hospital, said Kevin Roberts of the nonprofit Resources for Human Development, which Saad Muhammad worked with in recent years.

"He had a lot of ups and downs — like life," said longtime friend Mustafa Ameen.

In 1977, in just his 21st pro fight, Matthew knocked out veteran Marvin Johnson in the 12th round to win the North American Boxing Federation light heavyweight crown. He defended that title three times. He then fought Johnson for the World Boxing Council title in 1979 in Indianapolis, scoring a knockout despite cuts above both eyes in an eighth round named round of the year by The Ring magazine.

He defended his world title eight times, seven of them by knockout, before losing the crown in 1981 to Dwight Muhammad Qawi in a 10th-round knockout. He retired in 1992 with a 39-16-3 record and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.

Flags will fly at half-staff in Saad Muhammad's memory, the organization announced.

"Saad Muhammad was one of the most exciting boxers of all time. His drama-filled fights were thrilling, and he was a real fan favorite," executive director Edward Brophy said in a statement. "We join the boxing community in mourning his passing."

Saad Muhammad was born in 1954 in Philadelphia and lived with an aunt but was abandoned on the street at age 5 when the family could no longer take care of him, he had said.

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