Inducted on November 13, 1997
Dwight Muhammad Qawi (born Dwight Braxton, January 5, 1953 in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.) is a former world boxing champion in the light heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.
Qawi, then known as Dwight Braxton, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but grew up in Camden, New Jersey, where he got involved with crime at a young age. He was eventually convicted of armed robbery and spent around five years in prison.
It was at Rahway that Braxton found his place in life. The prison had an extensive boxing program and one of its inmates, James Scott, was a light heavyweight title contender who fought several times inside the prison itself. Braxton took up the sport, and when he was released from prison in 1978, immediately became a professional boxer. Qawi’s style was most often likened to Joe Frazier and with good reason as he had trained in Fraziers Philadelphia gym as a professional.
He went 1-1-1 in his first three pro fights, but then reeled off 14 straight victories to move into the world rankings at light heavyweight. The last of those wins came on September 5, 1981, when Braxton returned to Rahway to fight Scott, with the winner promised a shot at Matthew Saad Muhammad‘s WBC world championship belt. Braxton won a unanimous 10-round decision.
On December 19 of the same year, Braxton faced Saad Muhammad in Atlantic City. The ex-convict was the underdog against Saad, one of the most popular fighters of his generation and a fellow Hall of Famer, but Braxton defeated him on a 10th-round technical knockout and became a world champion for the first time. It was shortly after this that he announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name.
He defended the title three times in the next 15 months, knocking out Jerry Martin, Saad Muhammad a second time and Eddie Davis. On March 18, 1983, he lost a close but unanimous decision to WBA champion Michael Spinks in a unification bout.
Qawi felt that making the division’s 175-pound weight limit had drained him physically, and resolved to seek another world title in the newly created cruiserweight division. Freed of the need to fight to keep his weight down, Qawi reeled off another series of wins and claimed the WBA cruiserweight title on July 7, 1985, knocking out Piet Crous in Crous’ native South Africa.
He won two more fights, including a victory over former world heavyweight titlist Leon Spinks, before accepting a challenge from Olympian Evander Holyfield on July 12, 1986. The fight, in Holyfield’s hometown of Atlanta, went the full 15 rounds with Holyfield winning a split decision.
After the loss to Holyfield, Qawi fought off and on for the next 12 years, but never regained a world title. He rematched with Holyfield in 1987 for the WBA and IBF cruiserweight titles, but was stopped in the fourth round.
After a short stint in the heavyweight ranks, where in 1988 he lost to George Foreman by knockout in seven rounds, being forced to quit from exhaustion, he tried to regain the cruiserweight title. On November 27, 1989, he dropped a split decision to Robert Daniels for Holyfield’s vacated WBA title.
Qawi retired in 1999 at the age of 46, with a career record of 41 wins, 11 losses and one draw, with 25 wins by way of knockout. Currently, he works as a boxing trainer in New Jersey.
In 1998, Dwight began working at the Lighthouse, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Mays Landing, NJ. He works with both adults and adolescents and is a patient advocate.
- Kates, William (2004-06-13). “Boxing champ Palomino enters Boxing Hall of Fame”. USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- Putnam, Pat (1981-12-28). “From The Big House To The Big Time”. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- “Muhammad loses title to Braxton”. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. 1981-12-21. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- Camden NJ – Dwight Braxton aka Dwight Muhammed Qawi – The Camden Buzzsaw
- In 1982, following his conversion to Islam, he legally changed his name to Dwight Muhammad Qawi.
- His brother, Tony Braxton, also fought professionally.
With no amateur background, Qawi left prison and turned professional at the advanced age of 25. He started quickly and fought men with much more experience early in his career. He lost only once before his first title try at light heavyweight, and that loss was avenged twice over. He dominated and ultimately stopped the fearsome Matthew Saad Muhammad in the tenth round to win the WBC Light Heavyweight title. Qawi gave Muhammad a rematch and stopped him in the sixth round. After three title defenses, Qawi fought WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Michael Spinks to unify the World Light Heavyweight Championship.
Both fighters were extremely talented, and the fight was highly anticipated. The strategy of Spinks’s trainer, Eddie Futch, was for Spinks to jab, move to the right, throw left hooks, and keep the much shorter Qawi on the outside. Spinks followed the plan to near perfection and won by a unanimous decision. After the fight, Qawi said Spinks “ran like a chicken.” In response, Spinks said, “It doesn’t pay to be a gutsy fighter in a fight like that. You wind up with cuts everywhere. You wind up getting knocked down. You work harder than you really have to.”
After losing to Spinks, Qawi moved up to the cruiserweight division and won the WBA Cruiserweight title with a knockout of Piet Crous. He defended the title with a knockout of former World Heavyweight Champion Leon Spinks, Michael’s brother, and then defended against Evander Holyfield. Holyfield won by a 15-round split decision in a battle between, in the opinion of many, the two best cruiserweights of all-time in the greatest cruiserweight fight of all-time.
Qawi returned to knockout former IBF champ Lee Roy Murphy. He then outboxed Ossie Ocasio, but was robbed of the decision. It hardly mattered: Every one knew he had won the fight, and Qawi was given a rematch with Evander Holyfield. Holyfield had found his championship form by then and was no longer the novice that Qawi fought the first time around. In another good fight, Qawi was stopped in the fourth round. It was the first time Qawi had ever hit the canvas, and the first time he had ever been stopped.
In his next fight, he took on the powerful George Foreman. Qawi managed to keep the fight close and won the early rounds with some powerful blows. But at 222 pounds, Qawi was very overweight and out of shape. In the seventh round, Qawi surrendered for the first and only time in his career.
Qawi returned to the cruiserweight division with some impressive knockouts and got another title shot, fighting Robert Daniels for the vacant WBA title. Now in his late 30s, Qawi was slightly faded, and Daniels won by a split decision. Qawi fought on, but he was no longer a key player in the division. He lost to future cruiserweight champions Nate Miller and Arthur Williams, and retired after losing a decision to Tony LaRosa at the age of forty-five.
In 2004, Qawi was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
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