Inducted on November 12, 1998

Philadelphia boxer, light heavyweight champion of the world from 1979-82, was inducted June 14, 1998 into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Conastota, N.Y.

Born Maxwell Antonio Loach, his mother had an older brother abandon him when he was four years old. He was found wandering the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, adopted by Catholic Social Services who named him Matthew (after the name it sounded like he was uttering), and Franklin (after the street). Matt was adopted by a large Portuguese family and raised in South Philadelphia.

After some teenage gang fighting problems got him locked up, Matthew turned to boxing as an outlet for his energy, and began serious training at the Juniper Gym with the late Nick Belfiore. He turned pro in Philly in 1974 as Matt Franklin, and quickly became known as an aggressive contender. After just 18 pro fights, he was saddled with three losses and two draws–the setbacks to quality opposition. His losses were to future champions Marvin Camel and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (then Eddie Gregory) and one of the draws was to a future champ Mate Parlov.

In 1977, in just his 21 st pro fight, Matthew knocked out veteran Marvin Johnson in the 12th round at the Philadelphia Spectrum to win the NABF light heavyweight crown. He defended that title with wins over Billy Douglas, Richie Kates and Yaqui Lopez.

By 1979 he was ready to challenge for the world title and the WBC champion was his old nemesis Marvin Johnson. They met in Johnson’s home town Indianapolis on April 22 and the showdown was a classic. Bleeding from cuts above both eyes, Matthew scored an 8th round knockout to win the title. The 8th round of that fight was named Round of the Year by The Ring magazine. Shortly after becoming champion, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Matthew Saad Muhammad.

Saad Muhammad was an action fighter who displayed tremendous recuperative powers in the ring. He was often hurt, but rarely stopped. Saad Muhammad was known throughout his career for his immense heart and his numbing power. He made eight successful world title defenses, seven of which came by knockout. Among his victims were John Conteh (W 15 KO 4), Louis Pergaud (KO 5), Yaqui Lopez (KO 14), Lotte Mwale (KO 4), Vonzell Johnson (KO 11), Murray Sutherland (KO 9) and Jerry Martin (KO 11). Saad was the best paid light heavyweight to date and is locally well-remembered setting the stylish tone of the day cruising in his red convertable Rolls Royce, European silk suits, from South Philly to his new Jenkintown home. He also ushered in the new casino gambling in Atlantic City, as the first boxing star of Resorts International. Finally, on December 19, 1981, Saad Muhammad lost the crown to Dwight Braxton (Dwight Muhammad Qawi), via 10th round knockout. He continued fighting for a number of years, never re-achieving the title winning prowess.

After being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Matthew was awarded Philadelphia’s “Liberty Bell” Honor by Mayor Ed Rendell, for outstanding achievement in his field. He is currently working for the City of Philadelphia Department of Recreation, where he is founding a boxing program to train young boys and girls in the sport, and plans to develop a cadre of talented amateur and professional fighters. Additionally, he is working with Media Producer Polly Wilkinson on a television movie about his life.

Trainers: Adolph Ritacco, Nick Belfiore, Sam Solomon, Steve Traitz
Cut Men: Adolph Ritacco, Milt Bailey
Matthew Saad Muhammad Gallery

Career Overview


  • Saad Muhammad’s date of birth has been listed as June 16, June 24 and August 5.
  • Saad Muhammad was found on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in June of 1958 or 1959 (sources differ). “A policeman spotted me and asked me who I was. I hardly said anything because I was very scared,” he said. “He took me to the police station and tried to locate my real parents, but no one came to claim me.” Saad Muhammad didn’t remember much about what had happened. “I was going to my grandmother’s house with my brother,” he recalled. “As he ran in front of me, I tried to catch up with him, but he outran me. The next thing I knew, I was lost.”
  • Saad Muhammad was taken to the Catholic Social Services office, where the nuns named him Matthew Franklin. “They named me Matthew because it means ‘chosen one’ and ‘Franklin’ because I was found on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway,” he said.
  • At the age of seven, he was adopted by John and Bertha Santos, Portuguese immigrants who lived in South Philadelphia.
  • “The neighborhood I lived in was pretty bad,” Saad Muhammad said. “I had to go to Broad Street by way of 13th Street to get to Catholic school. The youth gangs used to ask me which street I was from and beat me up. I figured, ‘If I can’t beat them, join them.’ Later, I became a leader of a gang.” As a result of his gang activity, Saad Muhammad was in and out of reform school. While locked up, a counselor suggested that he take up boxing.
  • After winning the WBC light heavyweight championship from Marvin Johnson in 1979, Matthew Franklin converted to Islam and changed his name to Matthew Saad Muhammad. Saad means “bright future” and Muhammad means “worthy of praise.” [3]
  • In 1980, Saad Muhammad offered $10,000 to anyone with information leading to the whereabouts of his family. He also hired a private investigator, who got some answers in 1981. Following up on a lead provided by a Philadelphia woman, the private investigator discovered that Saad Muhammad was born Maxwell Antonio Loach. Saad Muhammad also learned that he and a brother were taken in by an aunt after their mother had died. The aunt could not afford to raise both of them, so she instructed the older brother to get rid of his younger brother. The older brother took Saad Muhammad to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and then ran away. “They just didn’t have enough money to take care of me, so they got rid of me,” Saad Muhammad said. [4]
  • Sylvester Stallone sought out Saad Muhammad to play the role of Clubber Lang in Rocky III, but he passed on the project. “They wanted me to shave my head and I refused to do that,” recalled Saad Muhammad. “Man, if I could go back in time, I would shave my head if that’s what it took to get that part. But if you knew things then that you know now, life would be a lot easier, wouldn’t it? I guess I was young and crazy. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, didn’t realize what a part like that could have done for me. I wish I had.” [5]
  • After his retirement from the ring in the early 1990s, Saad Muhammad fell on hard times. The Ring Magazine estimated his ring earnings at $4 million, but leading a spendthrift and dissipating lifestyle and trusting the wrong people with his boxing earnings left him broke. By 2010, he was living in the R.H.D. Ridge Center, a Philadelphia homeless shelter administered by Resources for Human Development. After a few months, he was again living on his own in Philadelphia and working for the development organization as an advocate and spokesman.
  • Saad Muhammad died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on May 25, 2014. [6]

Awards & Recognition by The Ring Magazine

Boxing Record: click