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Russell Peltz Recalls Matthew Saad Muhammad

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Matthew Saad Muhammad, perhaps the most entertaining light-heavyweight in boxing history, passed away over the weekend at the age of 59.

Promoter J Russell Peltz, International Boxing Hall of Fame class of 2004, recalls his days with Saad.

Matthew:

You Gave Us Everything You Had!

I was in my car Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh with my wife, Linda, and our grand-children and we were on our way to see the Pirates play at PNC Park when the call came in over the car-phone speaker.

It was Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, calling from Las Vegas, to tell us that Matthew Saad Muhammad had passed away the night before.

Eddie boxed several times for me in the 1970s and 1980s and we have a friendship based on mutual respect.

Eddie has become a keeper-of-the-flame for the fighters of his era and in January, 2011, he and his wife flew from Las Vegas to Philadelphia to attend Bennie Briscoe’s funeral, something I will never forget.

Saad Muhammad, the orphan who became world champion, gave you your money’s worth every time out and he did it during the light-heavyweight division’s finest era.

There is no greater compliment you can give an athlete.

The story goes that, when he was about 5, his older brother and he got separated on the Ben Franklin Parkway on their way to visit their grand-mother.

Another version has it that his older brother was given instructions to abandon him there.

A policeman found him.

Unable to identify him and getting no help from the youngster, the police turned him over to Catholic Social Services.

He was named for St. Matthew and Franklin since he was found on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

A troubled child, Matthew spent time in the Youth Study Center as a teenager before one day wandering into Nick Belfiore’s Juniper Gym in South Philadelphia.

That changed his life.

The young Matthew Franklin had 20 amateur fights and won the Trenton (NJ) Golden Gloves in 1973.

He turned pro in 1974 under the management of William “Pinny” Schafer and Pat Duffy.

Schafer was head of the Bartenders Union in Philadelphia and Duffy ran amateur boxing in the Middle Atlantic area and had an underground railroad to send kids to the pros.

Matthew was nothing special, despite winning his first seven fights, five by knockout.

Those were wonderful days in Philadelphia and we were loaded with talent.

In the mid-1970s, the city’s hottest fighter was junior lightweight Tyrone Everett, who was managed by Frank Gelb, a good friend of mine.

Tyrone’s brother Mike, also managed by Schafer and Duffy, wanted to join his brother in Gelb’s stable.

Matthew didn’t want to be left behind again—sound familiar—so a deal was worked out early in 1975 and Matthew became a throw-in, something akin to a baseball trade for future rights to an unnamed player.

It was the biggest steal since 1626 when Peter Minuit bought Manhattan from the Indians for a load of cloth, beads and hatchets.

Gelb, never one to baby his fighters, sent Matthew to Trieste, Italy where he upset future WBC light-heavyweight champ Mate Parlov, of Croatia, then to Stockton, CA, where he beat future WBC cruiserweight champ Marvin Camel, of Missoula, MT.

Gelb was my kind of manager—he wanted to find out what he had.

Though Franklin lost the rematch to Camel in Missoula and boxed a draw the second time with Parlov in Trieste, Gelb knew what he had.

In those days, fighters were not banned from television because they lost a fight here and there.

At the same time as Don King’s ill-fated US Boxing Championships on ABC-TV early in 1977, Don Elbaum and Hank Schwartz ran their own tournament on a network of small cable systems.

The Elbaum-Schwartz tournament was far superior to King’s, but lack of funding doomed it after a handful of shows.

The opening round in Philadelphia paired the young Franklin against Eddie Gregory (later Eddie Mustafa Muhammad).

It was held at the old Arena in West Philadelphia and featured middleweights Vito Antuofermo vs. Eugene “Cyclone” Hart in the co-feature.

Franklin dropped Gregory in the first round and appeared to have won the fight after 10 rounds.

Scores were 46-45, 45-44 and 46-44, all for Gregory, under the old Pennsylvania 5-point must system.

I was at the fight and it could have gone either way.

I believe the voting referee and both judges were from Philadelphia.

At the time, Franklin was more of a boxer than a puncher but he was so distraught over the decision that he decided to change his style and start slugging to take his destiny out of the judges’ hands.

His coming-out party was July 26, 1977 at The Spectrum for the vacant NABF title against another future light-heavyweight champion, Marvin Johnson, of Indianapolis, IN.

I consider myself fortunate to have promoted the greatest fight I ever saw in person.

It was two magnificent athletes exchanging bombs for 11 rounds.

The judges were 1-1-1 between them before Johnson sagged to the canvas in the 12th round and the video of the fans going bonkers at ringside remains a cherished image on my DVD.

More Hollywood-like fights followed at The Spectrum.

Matthew got off the floor to stop Billy “Dynamite” Douglas the next time and did the same early in 1978 when he went down on his face against Richie Kates, but got up and stopped Kates two rounds later.

Today, some of those fights would have been stopped with Matthew the loser.

When our son Matthew was born in October, 1978, Matthew the boxer was convinced we had named him after our favorite light-heavyweight.

That same month, the 175-pound Matthew K0d Yaqui Lopez at The Spectrum in their first fight.

As always in boxing, trouble was brewing.

Matthew was looking to sever ties with Gelb, who claimed to have an extension.

Matthew said he had been tricked into signing a blank piece of paper.

At the pre-fight press conference for the Lopez fight, Matthew introduced me to Bilal Muhammad, later to become his official manager after a series of legal battles.

After he won the WBC world title in April, 1979, by again stopping Johnson, this time in Marvin’s Indianapolis backyard, Matthew Franklin became Matthew Saad Muhammad.

Belfiore was jettisoned from the corner, to be replaced by Sam Solomon and Adolph Ritacco.

Gelb got paid for several fights, but Bilal Muhammad was running the show.

Classic fights followed, promoted mostly by Bob Arum, then Murad Muhammad.

It seemed like every one was a Fight-of-the-Year candidate, including the rematch with Yaqui Lopez in 1980 at the Playboy Club in McAfee, NJ, where Saad rallied from far back to win in 14 rounds.

Saturday afternoons in Atlantic City were festive-like every time Saad defended his title, be it against John Conteh, Vonzell Johnson, Murray Sutherland or Jerry Martin.

He was always trailing on points and taking a beating, often bleeding, when he would rally to win.

It came to an end in December, 1981, at the Playboy Casino in Atlantic City.

At the morning weigh-in for a 5pm fight against Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Saad was more than five pounds over the limit.

It was unacceptable on his trainer’s behalf and Saad spent the morning running on the beach to shed the weight.

He was a shell by the time the bell rang and Qawi battered him. Everyone waited for the late comeback, but it never materialized; he was K0d in the 10th round.

Matthew was 27 years old and it was over.

It was more than the weight issue. The hard fights and the beatings had caught up to him and it showed in the rematch the following summer at The Spectrum when Qawi repeated, this time in six rounds.

He boxed on for another 10 years, losing to fighters he would have beaten with one hand years earlier.

Why do fighters fight too long—they need the money.

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 time.

He had a beautiful wife—she later left him.

Years later, he told me 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.

Neil Gelb, one of Frank Gelb’s sons, got Matthew a job with the city, but Matthew disappeared after 10 days “and I did not see him for close to 10 years after that,” Gelb said.

Matthew also spent time in a homeless shelter.

Through all his down times, Matthew remained friendly and outgoing and he never lost his movie-star looks.

At my Hall-of-Fame induction in 2004, seconds before my speech, he got up from his seat on the stage to applaud and salute me.

When Linda and I were walking downtown about three or four years ago, he was riding in a car along Sansom Street and he jumped out to run over to say hello and hug us.

The news last week that he had been suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease and had a stroke was a stunner.

But nothing compared to Eddie’s phone call Saturday.

We tend to exaggerate the heroes of our youth.

I was in my late 20s, early 30s during Matthew’s heyday.

Oh, if he only were around today!

When Bennie Briscoe passed away, I felt I had lost a piece of my heart.

When Saad passed away, I felt I had lost a piece of my past.

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Three Punch Combo: What’s in the Cards for Spence, Kell Brook, and Cotto?

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 THREE PUNCH COMBO: Errol Spence Jr. scored an impressive knockout victory against Kell Brook on Saturday to take Brook’s IBF welterweight title. Both fighters now face interesting possibilities as they move forward in their respective careers.

Spence, who entered the fight with a lot of questions, not only showcased his tremendous skills but proved he has a very good chin as well as the willingness to dig deep when needed. He is without a doubt a future superstar in this sport. With momentum strong right now, he would be wise to be as active as possible even if not landing one of the big names his next time out.

I sense that Spence’s advisor, Al Haymon, will in fact get him back in the ring this summer. One name I would speculate as an opponent is Adrian Granados. Coming off a debatable loss to Adrien Broner, Granados has earned another shot at a top fighter. Granados is not a big puncher, but will put forth a good effort. The translation here is that he is someone that can be sold to the public as an opponent for Spence while bigger names are lined up, and also someone against whom Spence can in all likelihood look impressive once again.

After a summer tilt, I would expect to see Spence back in action towards the end of the year in a more substantial fight. Keith Thurman will still be on the mend at this point, recovering from elbow surgery, so that fight is out until next year. But Haymon has plenty of other welterweights and one that I suspect he steers toward Spence will be Lamont Peterson. Peterson is a name and has a belt. He also has a stated desire to want one of the big names next along with the payday that it would command. With Thurman out, this would seem the likely immediate path for Spence as such a fight would draw plenty of attention and be easy to sell.

As for Brook, he is going to need an extensive rest before restarting his career. He suffered a beating as well as an eye injury in September against Gennady Golovkin and then suffered another beating as well as injuring his other eye against Spence. After a rest, expect to see a tune- up bout followed by a massive fight in the UK against Amir Khan. The Khan fight has always been big and one of the reasons it has not been made is that it could frankly be made anytime with it still being a very significant event. Considering where both fighters are presently in their respective careers, the timing seems right for it to happen sooner rather than later. They both get a big payday and the winner gets well positioned for another big payday in what is a loaded territory at welterweight and junior middleweight.

Errol Spence Jr. and Kell Brook gave us a great fight on Saturday. While their career paths will head in different directions, expect to see both involved in big events once again down the road.

 Miguel Cotto’s Future

 Miguel Cotto announced this week that he would be returning to the ring on August 26th to face Japanese brawler Yoshihiro Kamegai for the vacant WBO junior middleweight championship. Cotto, who split from his promoter Roc Nation last week, will work with Golden Boy Promotions for this fight which will be televised by HBO.

This is an interesting development in the career of Cotto. Reportedly HBO had not been interested in televising the proposed Kamegai fight unless it received assurances from Cotto that it would lead to a bigger fight to be televised by the network. Also, Golden Boy’s involvement in the promotion signals that they could be involved in Cotto’s future. Obviously, this would mean the opponent for a big fight for Cotto would come from under the Golden Boy banner.

The obvious choice for Cotto’s big fight opponent is David Lemieux. Lemieux has been chasing a fight with Canelo Alvarez. However, with Alvarez deciding to go after Gennady Golovkin, Lemieux gets left on the outside looking in. In need of a big fight for Lemieux, Golden Boy saw an opportunity with Cotto having been previously negotiating the Kamegai fight with Roc Nation. A fight between Cotto and Lemieux makes sense for both as Cotto wants a name who isn’t a slick boxer and Lemieux wants a big fight with the payday it commands as well as the opportunity to put a signature win on his resume to bolster his future ambitions.

But I also think Golden Boy has another potential plan for Cotto. Golden Boy’s main cash cow, Canelo Alvarez, is in a high risk, high reward fight with Golovkin in September. There is no rematch clause if Alvarez wins and, of course, a win by Alvarez cements him as a mega star in the sport. He will be eyeing a return in May 2018 during Cinco de Mayo weekend. With momentum behind him, Alvarez would be wise to seek a name opponent to further boost the event. A rematch with Cotto would not only do huge business but keep the momentum going. For Cotto, it would be a chance to avenge the loss from 2015 to Alvarez and give him one massive payday as his career nears a conclusion.

Miguel Cotto is determined to close his career out with something big and it appears likely he will get his wish.

Kudos to Golden Boy

 When Golden Boy announced its new series on ESPN this winter, I was cautiously optimistic in the fights they would produce. I must say that the matchmaking thus far on this series has been superb and is getting even better with some recently announced cards. These are the types of televised shows the sport needs to generate some badly needed positive buzz.

On June 17th, Pablo Cesar Cano takes on Fidel Maldonado in a junior welterweight contest. This fight is not only very evenly matched but can’t be anything except a slugfest given the styles of the two fighters. Cano is a high pressure fighter who is willing to exchange to get his own punches home. Maldonado has the ability to box, but often gets drawn willingly into wars. In 2015, he had a back and forth shootout with Amir Iman in a fight that got some talk in fight of the year chatter. As a matter of fact, round three was probably round of the year that year. Maldonado has a tendency to fire back when he gets hit and with Cano’s style Maldonado is going to get hit a lot. This one is guaranteed action and a perfect fight for television.

About two weeks later, Golden Boy returns with another ESPN card featuring a high stakes junior featherweight contest between Randy Caballero and Oscar Negrete. Caballero is an undefeated former bantamweight belt holder and is a very skilled boxer puncher. Negrete, also undefeated, has shown much improvement inside the ring in his last few contests. The styles of these two should mix well to provide an entertaining fight. It is also evenly matched, and with so much at stake we should see the best of both men inside the ring.

One point I harp on a lot is the importance of good matchmaking, especially in televised fights. Golden Boy is doing an excellent job so far with their new ESPN series providing high quality, well-matched fights. The boxing public is taking notice and Golden Boy deserves much praise in delivering excellent events for the fans.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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George Foreman Youth Center in Houston Hosts Amateur Event

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George Foreman Youth Center

George Foreman Youth Center –  -Starting with the ring of the bell on October 22nd, local area boxers will be fighting for a spot to represent the Gulf Coast Region at the USA Boxing National Championships & in International Travel.

Weight categories will include: Pee Wee 8-9, Bantam 10-11, Intermediate 12-13, Juniors 14-15, Youth 15-16, & Elite 18-40 in both Open and Novice divisions. Winners will represent the Gulf area at the 2016 USA Boxing Elite, Youth and Junior National Championships to be held in Kansas City Missouri December 4-10, 2016. This tournament is a sanctioned event through USA Boxing the National Governing Body of Amateur Boxing and is a feeder to National and Olympic recognition.

The George Foreman Youth and Community Center was founded 32 years ago in 1984 by Olympic Gold Medalist and 2-time heavy weight champion George Foreman. The GFYCC is dedicated to providing a safe and secure location for youth to participate in sports and after school activities.

“This year for the first time in Houston boxing history, we are developing an elite international youth boxing team,” said George Foreman, IV. “The team will be selected for the sole purpose of training and traveling to other countries to gain experience on an international platform and promote cultural diplomacy! Utilizing grant and donor funding this team will be representing the George Foreman Youth and Community Center and will be announced Saturday October 22, at the Gulf Region’s Boxing Championship. The team will be reviewed by my father, 1968 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2-Time Heavyweight Champion, George Foreman Sr. The first international trip for this new Houston team is scheduled for Jan. 2017.”

Doors open for the Gulf Gloves Championships on Saturday October 22nd at 11:00 am with announcements and the presentation of the colors by the United States Army Houston Recruiting Command Baytown Beaumont Company at 12:45 pm. The national anthem will be performed by the internationally acclaimed Houston Brass Quintet! Boxing will begin at 1:00 pm. Championship finals will begin at 1:00 pm on Sunday October 23rd.

Media open workouts for Houston amateur standout boxers will be held Wednesday October 19th at the George Foreman Youth and Community Center at 2202 Lone Oak Road Houston, Texas 77093 at 4:00 pm.

Confirmed attendees for interviews will be:

George Edward Foreman IV: Son of 2 Time Heavy Weight Champion, President of Foreman Public Relations

Marlen Esparza: 2012 Olympic Games Bronze Medalist, 2014 Amateur World Champion, 2006 & 2016 Amateur World Championships Bronze Medalist, Nine-Time USA Boxing National Champion.

Rocky Juarez: 2000 Olympic Games Silver Medalist, 1999 Amateur World Champion, WBC Silver Featherweight World Champion.

Raul Marquez: 1988 Amateur World Championships Bronze Medalist, 1992 Olympic Games Quarter-finalist, IBF Light Middleweight World Champion.

Frank Tate: 1984 Olympic Games Gold Medalist, IBF Middleweight World Champion, NABF Light Heavyweight Champion.

Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz: WBA Lightweight World Champion, WBO Lightweight World Champion, WBA Super-Lightweight World Champion, IBF Lightweight World Champion.

“Sweet” Reggie Johnson: WBA Middleweight World Champion, IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion.

In addition to many Houston area professional boxers and Gulf Boxing Association alumni. Event is sanctioned by USA Boxing – Gulf LBC: 16-25-14268

George Foreman Youth Center / Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.

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Michelle Corrales-Lewis Named New CEO of NV Boxing Hall of Fame

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Michelle Corrales-Lewis

LAS VEGAS, NV (October 5, 2016) – The Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame (NVBHOF) a non-profit charitable organization which donates to boxing-related causes, is happy to announce Michelle Corrales-Lewis as its new CEO/President. Respected boxing announcer, Rich Marotta, who founded the NVBHOF in 2012, steps down after devoting years of his life to get the organization off the ground.

With a number of boxing greats already inducted, which include world champion fighters, judges, coaches and promoters, the NVBHOF has rapidly established itself as prestigious group not only here in Las Vegas, but around the world. The NVBHOF has multiple fundraising events throughout the year, helping local boxing organizations fulfill their goals to keep boxing alive within the community.

“I took this organization as far as I could and I’m very comfortable where it is at today,” said Rich Marotta. “Michelle is on the scene in Las Vegas, has a myriad of contacts, both in business and with the boxing community, especially the fighters, and is more than ready to completely run the company. She is incredibly capable and has been an indefatigable agent for growth of the NVBHOF the past three years, taking on additional responsibilities each and every year. It brings me great pleasure to announce her as the new CEO of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame.”

After serving as the NVBHOF Chief Operating Officer for many years, Michelle Corrales-Lewis, is thrilled at her new position within the organization.

“It’s an honor to be chosen as the new CEO of the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame,” said Michelle Corrales-Lewis, widow of former multiple world champion and 2013 NVBHOF inductee, Diego Corrales. “Rich Marotta did a fantastic job building the organization from ground up. His immense work ethic is a great example of how I plan to continue the vision he set forth. My goal is to find a home for the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, one where fans from all around the world can visit on regular basis. The boxing community is filled with wonderful people that we will honor as inductees each year. I’m truly grateful for the wonderful opportunity that has been presented to me by my dear friend Rich Marotta.”

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