On This Day: Matthew Franklin wins epic war against Marvin Johnson

Marvin Johnson
Franklin, later known as Matthew Saad Muhammad, triumphs in titanic thriller on July 26 1977

“LOCAL light-heavyweight contender Matthew Franklin scored a sensational 12th-round knockout over Marvin Johnson in a truly epic fight at the Spectrum,” read Boxing News.

“This one came right of the blood-plasma unit,” said an excited Bill Livingston, covering the fight for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The same folks who brought you Ali-Frazier, reddening the dawn skies in Manila. The same script that gave the world Graziano-Zale and before that, Christians and Lions.”

It sounds epic and it was.

Gritty southpaw Johnson came looking for Matt from the first bell and while he tried to box and move at first, it never took the Philadelphian long to get drawn into wild shootouts. He became famous for them.

As a consequence, these two tore into one another without let-up.

“I had to stay close to him because he’s a southpaw,” the winner later explained.

And although he was victorious, his facial damage was worse than Johnson’s.

He held his hands high but Johnson still battered through his guard repeatedly, but Franklin – young, ambitious, determined and in marvellous condition – took everything Johnson would throw.

Still, the outcome hung in the balance until the 11th, during which Johnson clubbed himself to a virtual standstill. He seemed to have lost heart with Franklin taking each and everyone of his best shots and returning fire through a bloody mask and in the 12th round Marvin was battered into the ropes and out on his feet before Franklin lowered the boom.

The Spectrum erupted as their local boy rejoiced. Johnson lay prone on the canvas amongst the pandemonium.

A deflated Johnson, face battered and swollen, lamented: “I threw a lot of punches but he took it. Some fighters can, some can’t. That’s what proves he’s a good fighter. Staying in there. I hit him with an awful lot of hard punches. I just don’t know what happened.”

“It was the sort of terribly punishing fight that may leave a permanaent scar on the careers of both fighters. Their battered and bruised faces will heal, but I have to wonder if either will ever be the same again,” wrote Nigel Collins, ringside for BN.

Both went on to win world titles in long, decorated careers. In fact, they met in another blood-thirsty battle in 1979 and this time Saad Muhammad took the WBC crown from Johnson in eight pulsating rounds.

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