Philly Boxing History

JULY 13, 1980




On this day in 1980, Matthew Saad Muhammad defended his light-heavyweight title for the fourth time against old rival Alvaro Yaqui Lopez. The pair had staged a memorable Spectrum battle for the North American title two years before, but this contest for the world crown blew the lid off the model for TV ring wars and cemented Saad's reputation as boxing's ultimate thrill machine and miracle worker.

Of course all Philly fans knew very well of Matthew's his ability to comeback against all odds in a fight. They had seen him down, cut, and on the brink of defeat so many times before. So when Lopez began to land his bombs in this rematch, Philly fans didn't get too worked up. But the national TV audience was just getting used to Matthew's miracles. He'd stormed back to win the title against Marvin Johnson, and summoned an unlikely knockout against John Conteh in his first defense.

After six very competitive rounds, Lopez trapped Saad on the ropes and fired away with some very serious artillery. The attack was savage. Saad twisted and squirmed on the ropes, trying to weather the storm. He took his usual measure of punishment, but Yaqui had a full tank of gas and kept punching. Just when the expectant Philly fans anticipated Saad would fight off the ropes and turn it all around, Lopez took a breath and unloaded another series of punches that would have dropped any other fighter. But in these days of Saad Muhammad's prime, he was something more than human. Somehow he withstood the onslaught. The attack raised the bar for abuse and set a new personal "best" (or worst) for the miraculous Philadelphian. But what came next stunned everyone watching - even the blasť Philly fans.

Instead of falling over, Matthew once again climbed back into a fight with his own attack. Winded from his own previous offense, Lopez could barely defend himself as Saad blasted away and almost punched Yaqui into submission. Muhammad turned him on the ropes and punched away. He battered Lopez across the ring and back. The bell saved him. If there was any question before, it no longer existed. Matthew Saad Muhammad was boxing's most exciting fighter - maybe of all time. Ring Magazine called round seven the best "Round of the Year".

The fight continued to thrillingly see-saw, but slowly and surely, Muhammad began to establish control. Finally in round fourteen, Saad scored four knockdowns, and as good as the fight had been, and as much as most wanted to see it go on, the referee just had to stop it. Personally I was relieved it was over.

This rematch was one of the greatest TV fights of the era, and Ring magazine named it their "Fight of the Year" for 1980. Saad Muhammad continued to thrill TV audiences until his miracles ran dry against Dwight Muhammad Qawi in 1981. Lopez fought another four years, posting twelve more wins against five loses, including one in a failed cruiserweight title try. Saad lost his crown to Qawi and failed to regain it in their rematch. He quickly slipped down the rankings, but continued to fight for another decade. However, his record in that post-championship final chapter was only 7-11-1. But it was his rematch with Yaqui Lopez on this day in 1980, that served as the best example of Saad Muhammad's incredible prime. It was a time when he just could not be beaten.



  1965 - Ted Whitfield W10 Charley Scott at Boston, MA
  1970 - Perry Abney (Lil Abner) D10 Milo Savage at the Atlantic Arena in Washington, DC
  1970 - Willie Monroe KO2 Sanchez Rosa at Tampa, FL
  1980 - Matthew Saad Muhammad TKO14 Yaqui Lopez II at the Playboy Club in McAfee, NJ
  1982 - Pat Cuillo W10 Jimmy Young at the Tropicana in Atlantic City
  2019 - James "Big Cat" Gibbs