Matthew Saad Muhammad vs. Murray Sutherland

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1981-04-25 : Matthew Saad Muhammad 175 lbs beat Murray Sutherland 173 lbs by KO at 1:16 in round 9 of 15

Saad Keeps Crown on Disputed Knockout
By Deane McGowen, The New York Times, April 26, 1981

ATLANTIC CITY April 25 - In a controversial ending, Matthew Saad Muhammad knocked out Murray Sutherland in the ninth round today and retained his World Boxing Council light-heavyweight championship at Resorts International Casino.

Saad, making the seventh defense of his 175-pound title, floored the Scottish-born Sutherland, from Bay City, Mich., with a crashing right-left combination to the jaw. Sutherland, who had been floored by two rights and a left in the seventh, was counted out by Paul Venti, the referee. But he seemed to have regained his feet at 9 and beaten the count. However, Venti ruled otherwise.

There was an immediate discussion in the ring between Frank Luca, Sutherland's trainer; Jersey Joe Walcott, the New Jersey boxing commission chairman and Venti. After 10 minutes, the ring announcer said the outcome was official. The time of the knockout was 1 minute 16 seconds.

Sutherland appeared in command of his senses as he arose, but it seemed clear that he would have suffered more damage had Venti permitted the fight to continue.

Afterward, Venti insisted he had been correct in his count. Appeals by Luca to Walcott and other commissioners present proved useless. Walcott said that he would look at the film replay later this week. Art Dore, Sutherland's manager, said he would appeal the decision to the commission.

Saad is normally a slow starter, and Sutherland split the champion's lower lip in the first round, and later raised a small mouse below his left eye.

Through five rounds, Sutherland outpunched the champion by two and three to one. He moved in to land blows, then danced back or sideways out of range. He seldom stopped moving, and that strategy kept Saad from causing any damage.

Between the sixth and seventh rounds, Sutherland's right glove was changed because it had been split. It took his corner more than five minutes to lace on the new glove, giving him a long rest.

But in the seventh the tide turned quickly. Saad crashed a right to the jaw, then followed with a left-right combination to the head. Sutherland went down in his corner and took the mandatory 8-count. Saad lashed out again with five successive rights to the head as the bell sounded.

Those shots had done their damage. In the eighth Sutherland no longer had the snap to his jabs and right crosses. Saad wasted no time finishing the job in the ninth.

On the 10-point scoring system in effect, Frank Brunette. one judge, had Saad ahead, 76-75, through eight rounds. The other judges, Bill Kostrub and Charlie Spina, favored Sutherland, 76-75.

Venti said: "In my opinion he was in no condition to continue. He jumped up as I said 10. That's not soon enough. If I had let the fight continue, I felt Saad would have seriously hurt him. That's in the discretion of the referee."

Saad, 26 years old, went to the nearby Medical Center hospital afterward to have stitches in his lower lip. Sutherland also went there for stitches over his right eye.

"You look at him and look at me and ask yourself, 'Who won the fight?'" Sutherland, 26, said. The challenger did look in better shape.

"I thought it was a very fast count," he added. "I was on my feet at 9. The referee didn't even ask me how I felt or if I could continue. I would have boxed the next two rounds, then go back to the style that earned me the first five rounds. Saad is a champion ready to be beaten. I think I was beating him."

Gore charged: "The fight was stolen from us. We don't want that referee again." Saad, in winning his 17th straight, ran his record to 30-3-2, with 20 knockouts. Sutherland, who wore Scotch plaid trunks and was accompanied in the ring by a Scots piper, saw his record drop to 31-4. He suffered only his second knockout; he had put away 26 foes. [1]