As an amateur, Mustafa Muhammad won the New York City Golden Gloves at 147 pounds in 1971 and 1972. This was during an era when the NYC Golden Gloves was a major sporting event in the city, featuring future professional stars on a year basis. To win his championship in 1971, Mustafa Muhammad beat future middleweight world champion Vitor Antuofermo.
As a professional, he campaigned initially as a middleweight, and was fighting tough, veteran professionals from the Northeastern U.S. scene within a short time frame. In 1974 he knocked out the hard-punching Cyclone Hart. He suffered his first loss in 1975, dropping a split-decision to top contender Bennie Briscoe.
Mustafa Muhammad would make his true mark after outgrowing 160 pounds and moving up to light heavyweight. He was a key fighter during an era that is arguably the greatest in the history of the 175-pound division. He lost to Victor Galindez in his first attempt to capture the WBA title, but in 1980 he won the belt from Marvin Johnson.
He would drop the belt to Michael Spinks in 1981. Spinks would go on to win the heavyweight title from Larry Holmes and was a destroyer at light heavyweight, but Mustafa Muhammad took him to a hard-fought decision. Mustafa Muhammad also beat world champion Matthew Saad Muhammad, in 1977.
Today, Mustafa Muhammad is among the top trainers in the entire sport. Among the high-profile fighters he has worked with are Iran Barkley, Chad Dawson, Johnny Tapia, James Toney and Zab Judah. But he is hardly a straight “hired gun.” I’ve seen him work the corners of many young, up-and-coming contenders and prospects. He will likely be working the corner of Said El Harrak this weekend on the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao undercard.
Ultimately, Mustafa Muhammad’s greatest legacy in the sport might end up being his work with the Joint Association of Boxers (JAB), a union for boxers that has affiliation with the Teamsters. The history of fighters being taken advantage of and left destitute is a dark side of the sport and making a significant, positive impact on that situation would be a heroic achievement.
Mustafa Muhammad also appeared in the greatest boxing movie ever filmed, Raging Bull, when he played Billy Fox, the over-hyped knockout machine who Jake LaMotta was paid to throw a fight against.