Exclusive Interview With The One And Only “Camden Buzz Saw,” Dwight Muhammad Qawi

dwight qawi(Dwight Qawi, on left, landing a punch against Matthew Saad Muhammad) 10.05.07 - By James Slater: Dwight Muhammad Qawi is one of the true greats of boxing. A world champion at both light heavyweight and cruiserweight, Dwight gave boxing fans some truly unforgettable fights. His 1986 bout with Evander Holyfield, is, quite simply, THE greatest fight ever held in the junior heavyweight division. Qawi lost that one, by a very close split decision, but during his fine career he managed wins over the likes of Matthew Saad Muhammad (twice) Leon Spinks, Eddie Davis, Mike Rossman, James Scott and Piet Crous. As a result, Dwight was enshrined in The Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.

Earlier today, in an interview that has to rank as one of the best this writer has ever had the privilege of being granted, Dwight spoke to me over the phone from his home in New Jersey. I am pleased to be able to say that the former two-time world champ sounded in great spirits and was happy to speak on any subject regarding his life and career. Here is what he had to say.

James Slater: It’s great to speak with you, Dwight. I really appreciate your time. Can I start right at the beginning? You had no amateur fights at all, correct?

Dwight Qawi: Right, none at all. I was more of a street fighter at first. It was a combination of that and wanting to survive, having survival skills. I first got into boxing in prison, of course, and gradually I got better and better. I really learnt in the gym.

J.S: Did you base your fighting style on anyone in particular?

D.Q: No, not really. When I first went into the gym I tried to dance around like Ali (laughs). Everyone just laughed at me. No, basically I was a street fighter and I settled down into a professional.

J.S: You went straight in at the deep end, and eventually got a shot at the world light heavyweight title, against Matthew Saad Muhammad - who you fought twice. What are your recollections of those two fights?

D.Q: They were real tough, the first one especially. I trained very hard, mentally in particular. The first fight was brutal and very intense, as I knew it would be. Eventually I overwhelmed him and got him outta there in the tenth round. The second fight was easier, because I had taken a lot out of him, he wasn’t the same. A lot of guys, after having fought me were never
the same. I won the second fight much quicker ( a six round TKO).

J.S: What about your defence against Eddie Davis?

D.Q: That was a real tough fight. See, I had a broken nose in that fight. Davis didn’t break it, my brother was a Golden Gloves champion at the time and we sparred together. He hit me with a shot and busted my nose. That affected me in the fight a lot. It was real awkward breathing properly, and my nose was tender and bleeding a whole lot. It affected my style, I wasn’t
as aggressive, I boxed more. I hit him with a good body shot late in the fight and got him outta there.

J.S: Going into a big fight with such an injury must have been tough. Do you think a lot of fighters nowadays would have postponed the fight, are guys not as tough today?

D.Q: Well, I SHOULD have postponed the Davis fight. Matter of fact, I wasn’t ready for the [Michael] Spinks fight that came next, either. But the fight with Michael Spinks went ahead and it wasn’t a knock down, drag out type of fight, but he won the fight by a decision.

J.S: Did you knock Spinks down in the fight? I know he went down but nothing was called. Do you think you legitimately knocked him down?

D.Q: There was a knockdown, but they waved it off. I did hit him with a body punch, but I really can’t tell if that punch knocked him down. A punch definitely landed though.

J.S: Shortly after that fight you moved up to cruiserweight……..

D.Q: (jumping in) Right. My father had passed away sometime in late 1984. We were supposed to have a second fight with Spinks, but I was struggling to make the weight. I had lots on my mind and I wasn’t able to really focus on making weight, so I moved up. The second fight was supposed to happen, but I called Butch Lewis (Spinks’ promoter) and told him I wouldn’t be fighting him again. Butch got angry, but I wanted a new direction.

J.S: And you went to South Africa and fought Piet Crous for his cruiserweight world title. Any memories?

D.Q: Crous was a good boxer. He was fast and threw a lot of combinations. Yeah, he was real fast. But I broke him down. Old style.

J.S: So you were world champion again, and then came one of your most famous fights, with Evander Holyfield. That fight is probably the best fight ever at cruiserweight. What are your recollections?

D.Q: Well, firstly, I suspect he [Evander] was juiced up. I look at that fight as very suspicious. It was a great fight, but I feel I was cheated in the fight. Cheated out of the win and cheated out of history. I remember before the fight, watching Holyfield fight Lionel Byarm, who was my sparring partner at the time. He could barely go the six rounds with him. He was
breathing real hard after just six rounds. In the fight with me, his corner definitely gave Holyfield something. I had him in the fourth and fifth rounds, if you watch the tape you’ll see, but then, in round six, he came back on. He lost fifteen pounds in the fight and had to be hospitalised because his body was in shock. Back then I didn’t really know too much about steroids and stuff, but now I definitely think he took something illegal. I know guys get a second wind, I used to myself, but that was not a second wind when he came on real strong late in the fight. He was throwing loads of punches like an amateur kid or something. It was crazy.

J.S: Do you respect Evander as a fighter today?

D.Q: I can’t respect him when I’m so suspicious of him. You can call it circumstantial evidence if you want, but I believe he was cheating. Watch the tape, you can see him come on after the fifth round. It’s kind of like the Aaron Pryor fight with Alexis Arguello. Pryor was a great fighter, but did he take something, too? Could he have beaten Arguello without having
taken something? I don’t know what they were giving him, and how often but….. The thing is, it’s tarnished, winning that way [under suspicion of having cheated] So I can’t really respect Holyfield today, no.

J.S: Shortly after the second fight with Holyfield ( a TKO loss for Dwight) you moved up to heavyweight and took on George Foreman. That was one brave move!

D.Q: The Foreman fight I took on two and-a-half week’s notice. I was supposed to fight Bert Cooper first. But Bob Arum called, and offered me Foreman. I didn’t even know George had made a come back. But I thought, “Yeah, he’s old, I’ll knock him out.” I was gonna KO him fast. But he was in shape, the best shape of his comeback. He weighed 235 pounds. I was overweight, but I was winning the fight in the early rounds. I shook him a few times. But I got tired. George was smart, he really improved as a fighter in his comeback He wasn’t just going out for the quick KO.

J.S: Were you surprised when George regained his title in 1994?

D.Q: I was surprised, but I have nothing but respect for George. Michael Moorer let him get closer and closer to him. Like I say, George was a smart fighter.

J.S: Did you see the fight on Saturday with Oscar and Floyd?

D.Q: Yeah, it was somewhat boring because you had two boxers in there. I was always told by my trainer, if you’re in there with a boxer, fight. If you’re in there with a fighter, box.

J.S: Do you keep in shape and work-out today?

D.Q: I work-out, But it’s hard finding time because of my hours. I work four ’til midnight. I’m a counsellor now, for troubled kids and stuff. But I work-out, yes.

J.S: Do you train other fighters?

D.Q: I want to get back into that, people have been calling me about that. I’d love to work with young up and coming kids. My health’s good, I get sinus trouble at times, but I’m in good shape after all I went through in my career, thank God, too.

J.S: Well, you certainly sound in great shape, Dwight. It’s been great speaking with you. For my final question, how satisfying was it being inducted into The Hall of Fame?

D.Q: I remember when they called me up to tell me I was going in. It was late at night and they told me that not everyone gets in right away. You have to be retired for five years before you’re eligible. And straight after five years had passed after my last fight in 1998, I was in. It was like they had been watching me or something (laughs). It’s great, yes. It gives me closure. It’s good to know you’re appreciated and respected all over the world.

J.S: Well, you certainly are respected, Dwight. And I really appreciate your time. Thanks very much for the interview.

D.Q: Okay, send me a copy. Bye. (Dwight was even kind enough to give me his address. He is without doubt one of the friendliest people I have spoken with since becoming a boxing writer. A true champion, in every sense of the word. Thanks, Dwight.)

Article posted on 10.05.2007

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