Born Dwight Braxton and before becoming Dwight Muhammad Qawi, he left his birth place of Baltimore after seven fights in 1978-79, moving to NJ. At 5:05 he knew how to get inside and low then come up and hurt people. He was almost like a Rocky Marciano type.
In early 1980 Qwai was 5-1-1 and having his first 10 rounder when he traveled to South Africa knocking out Theunis Kok, 8-0, in the tenth and final round. “I had one eye closed and he was 6:04 but I finally caught up to him,” said Qawi.
In six of his next eight fights he was in Atlantic City avenging a draw in his debut stopping Leonard Langley in two and avenging a loss in his third fight defeating Johnny Davis, 10-2. In between these two fights he won the ESPN tournament defeating Charles Smith, 12-6, Rick Jester, 7-1, and in the final Tony Mesoraca, 9-1, all by stoppage!
In May of 1981 he met the former WBA light heavyweight champion Mike “the Jewish Bomber” Rossman, 40-6-3, stopping him in seven in Atlantic City. By now they knew who the “Camden Buzzsaw” was!
In September Qawi would return to Rahway State Prison where he learned to fight having been released in 1978 to take on the feared James Scott, 19-1-1, and become the second boxer to defeat him in his “home” gym.
This win over Scott earned Qawi a WBC title fight in December of 1981 with only a 13-1-1 record when he stopped Philly’s Matthew Saad Muhammad, 31-3-2, in the tenth round for his title in Atlantic City. Just three months later he would defeat the first boxer to defeat Scott, Philly’s Jerry “The Bull” Martin, 22-3, stopping him in six rounds in Las Vegas.
In August of 1982 Qawi would give Saad Muhammad a rematch and this time stopping him in six rounds in Philly. “He became known as the Philly killer.” In November in his fourth title defense he stopped USBA champion Eddie Davis, 23-2-1, in eleven rounds in Atlantic City.
In March of 1983 he would meet Olympic Gold medalist and WBA champion Michael Spinks, 22-0, losing his WBC title over fifteen rounds. He called Spinks a “chicken” for running so much. Spinks claimed he followed Eddie Futch’s plan and wasn’t about to slug it out with Qawi by fighting his fight. It ended his eighteen fight win streak.
It would be six months before Qawi fought again when he defeated Johnny Davis in their “rubber match”. In July he made another trip to South Africa defeating Piet Crous, 23-0-1, for his WBA cruiserweight title, stopping him in eleven rounds. Two judges had it even and one for Crous at the time of the stoppage. “This fight was very intense,” said Qawi.
Qawi would give Michael Spink’s brother Leon, 17-4-2, the former Olympic Gold medalist and WBC and WBA heavyweight champion a shot in March of 1986 in Reno, NV, stopping him in six rounds.
In what would be one of the greatest cruiserweight title fights ever Qawi lost a split decision to former Olympian Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, 11-0, in the latter’s home town of Atlanta by split decision after fifteen rounds. “I thought I won that fight. Even one of the ring commentators Alex Wallau came to me in 1994 and said I changed my mind and do believe you won that fight,” said Qawi.
After scoring a second round knockout in Qawi’s next fight he lost a disputed decision to Ossie Ocasio, 20-4-1, the former WBA cruiserweight champion. Then he defeated the former IBF champion Lee Roy Murphy, 26-1, in his next fight stopping him in six rounds. This earned him a rematch with Holyfield which took seventeen months to happen. Holyfield who by then held the IBF and WBA titles stopped him in four rounds.
After his loss in the rematch to Holyfield, Qawi decided to move up to the heavyweight division taking on the former world champion “Big” George Foreman, 52-2. “I had sparred with heavyweights like Michael Dokes and knew I could hold my own. Despite the size difference Qawi did well for the first half of the fight before being stopped in seven rounds. “I was just over the cruiserweight limit so I went up in weight,” said Qawi.
Qawi would win four straight earning him a shot for the vacant WBA cruiserweight title losing to Robert Daniels, 17-1, by a disputed split decision in France in November of 1989. In his next fight he lost to heavyweight Mike “Bounty Hunter” Hunter, 13-2-2, over twelve rounds.
Qawi would come back to win six straight, five by knockout including defeating James Salerno, 41-10-1, stopping both Eddie Taylor, 32-10-1, and former IBF cruiserweight champion Ricky Parkey, 22-8, for the vacant WBC Continental Americas cruiserweight title. His streak was stopped losing to future cruiserweight champion “King” Arthur Williams, 15-1-1, in Las Vegas.
Two fights later Qawi lost to future cruiserweight champion “Nate “Mr.” Miller, 20-3. I knew I was having trouble with these younger guys. He would retire for four and a half years before coming back in May of 1997. He tried to get a license in PA but Boxing Director Greg Sirb wouldn’t license him. So he went to NJ and got licensed and onto scoring a pair of wins.
It was November of 1998 when Qawi would lose what would be his final fight by decision to Tony La Rosa, 30-13, in Rosemont, IL. “Bill Johnson was in my corner and we couldn’t believe the decision,” said Qawi. La Rosa had defeated the former three division champion Iran Barkley in his previous fight. Qawi ended his career with a 41-11-1 record with 25 knockouts at age forty-two.
Qawi was inducted into the IBHOF in 2004 having been the former WBC light heavyweight and WBA cruiserweight champion.
I remember catching up with Dwight at the seventh Annual Briscoe Awards in Philadelphia. His trainer Wesley Mouzon was one of the most underrated trainers in the world and one of the nicest guys in boxing.
KEN HISSNER: In 1981 and 1982 you ruled the Philly fighters defeating Mike “the Jewish Bomber” Rossman (Philly trained), Matthew Saad Muhammad (twice) and Jerry “The Bull” Martin. Do you think this was when you were at your best?
QAWI: In 1982 I was at my best. The baddest man on the planet!
KEN HISSNER: What was it like returning to Rahway Prison to fight James Scott?
QAWI: It wasn’t revenge. It was more of a resolution.
KEN HISSNER: After winning eighteen straight you faced WBA champion Michael Spinks. Were you surprised his trainer Eddie Futch had a game plan to have Spinks moving at all times?
QAWI: I thought he would trade a bit but all he did was run to the point he fell down. I matched him jab for jab.
KEN HISSNER: You then had your third bout with Johnny Davis. You lost a split, won a majority and won a split decision over him. Just how tough were those three fights?
QAWI: He was very crafty.
KEN HISSNER: How were your two trips to South Africa winning both by knockout winning the WBA cruiserweight title in your second one?
QAWI: Leaving after my first fight there my flight was being delayed. A Jewish gentleman made me feel safe because I had no entourage due to it being early in my career but I had plenty of heart. I entered the ring with two songs. They played “Solid as A Rock” and in the background “Born in the USA” that started low and kept building up! There were plenty of Americans there and they really cheered when the music came on!
KEN HISSNER: Your first fight with Evander Holyfield was as good as it gets with your WBA and his IBF titles on the line. Was it one of your toughest fights?
QAWI: I was walking him down and by the fifth round I knew I had him. I saw him take a drink of water from a bottle and he came back fresher than at the start of the fight. I have never seen that happen to anyone and have always had my doubts how it happened.
KEN HISSNER: It took seventeen months to get a rematch with Holyfield. Were you surprised you didn’t get an immediate rematch?
QAWI: I had Rock Newman as an advisor. He convinced to go to Atlanta knowing they wouldn’t come to Atlantic City. NBC commentator Alex Wallu came to me in 1994 and said “I changed my mind you won that fight.”
KEN HISSNER: After your second fight with Holyfield you moved up to the heavyweight division taking on “Big” George Foreman. It was like “David & Goliath”. You held your own for the first half of the fight. How big of an obstacle was Foreman for you?
QAWI: I started drinking and didn’t realize how bad it was and I was having problems with weight. I couldn’t get under 202. I only had 2½ weeks-notice from promoter Bob Arum but it was a money fight.
KEN HISSNER: You returned to the cruiserweight division winning four straight earning a vacant title fight for the WBA crown against Robert Daniels losing a split decision in France. How was the decision?
QAWI: Promoter Cedric Kushner wanted me to fight the “White Buffalo” Frans Botha and I should have. Instead I fought Daniels and I beat him. I hit him with a right hand knocking his mouth piece out. They washed it off and he started running.
KEN HISSNER: You came back to win six straight before losing to “King” Arthur Williams and Nate “Mr.” Miller in 1992. Did you know it was near the end of the line for you at that time?
QAWI: I knew but I was walking around 215-220 and had a bad ankle. I was supposed to be a cruiserweight. My body was shot. My assistant trainer Quenzell McCall told me I was killing myself going up and down losing weight. He said always stay ready and stay in shape.
KEN HISSNER: You had one of the most respected trainers in the Philly and the likeable Wesley Mouzon. What were your thoughts on the man?
QAWI: He was like a preacher. His attitude and demeanor were always very soft spoken and he had a good character and was like a father to me in boxing. He was someone I could go to and trust.
KEN HISSNER: In 2004 you were inducted into the IBHOF. How thrilling was that for you?
QAWI: That was great. I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like with people from all over the world coming up to me who were fans.
KEN HISSNER: You work at the Lighthouse, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Mays Landing, NJ. What effect has that work on your life helping people to re-habilitate?
QAWI: I was raw, crude in my boxing and it tested my soul. It’s a mental game is what I learned. I’m doing counseling starting with kids and now families. I love working with people but it’s harder than going 15 rounds though it’s very rewarding. You have to be focused and I go to school all the time. Boxing taught me never to give up.
KEN HISSNER: You know being born in Baltimore you could have been known as the “Baltimore Buzzsaw!”
DWIGHT QAWI: (laughing) No man, I moved at an early age and was raised in Camden.
KEN HISSNER: I want to thank you, for all the exciting fights you brought to us fans and for taking the time to answer these questions.
QAWI: I appreciate this. One thing that helped me from the beginning is it’s like the poem “footprints in the sand.” Once I got a hold of God I felt like I was a winner again. I’d rather be in the company of people not doing so good and are good people than in the company of people who are doing well but are cut throats. I have to take it one day at a time!
Please send all questions and comments to Ken Hissner at: Kenhissner@gmail.com