With an injured Sugar Ray Leonard out of action indefinitely, every boxing promoter is looking for a fighter attractive enough--in and out of the ring--to fill the void created by Leonard's absence.
Dwight Braxton, the World Boxing Council light heavyweight champion, thinks he is that fighter. Braxton successfully defended his title here late Saturday night with a technical knockout in the sixth round over former champion Matthew Saad Muhammad.
Braxton won so convincingly, in such casually brutal fashion, that he created an intimidating image of himself that has boxing watchers thinking that Braxton may be on his way to becoming one of the biggest names in the sport.
"I think I'm a shining star right now," Braxton said today.
What makes Braxton so intriguing in the ring is his savage style. The man who calls himself "The Camden Buzz Saw" stands only 5 feet 6, but has a simple, constantly approaching attack that leaves opponents dazed and bloodied.
"I doubt very seriously that there is anybody in boxing today who is as intimidating as Dwight," said Braxton's trainer, Wesley Mouzon, who is not prone to overstatement. "Dwight is definitely the meanest guy in the ring. Well . . . perhaps (Marvin) Hagler is as devastating."
Braxton hit Muhammad with 20 consecutive punches in the second round of Saturday's title fight and bounced him off the ropes one time with a jab to the chest. Twice during the fight, Braxton defied Muhammad by poking his tongue out before slamming his opponent with combinations. At the start of the fifth round, Braxton was so anxious to resume the pounding he walked straight over to Muhammad's corner and smashed him with a right hand before Muhammad's trainer could remove the stool from the canvas.
"We had to settle him down," Mouzon said today. "He came out hunting for the head a little too much."
Braxton is the opposite of most of the box-office attractions boxing has offered recently, not at all a glamorous personality. He is a fairly articulate man who spent much of his youth in reform schools and jail. He has been fighting professionally for fewer than five years.
Promoters are expected to be swarming to him in the next few weeks, since Braxton said he wants to unify the light heavyweight championship by fighting Michael Spinks, World Boxing Association champion, in March or April.
"There have been enough pretty-boy types around," Mouzon said. "The reason Dwight could be such an attraction is that people know they'll see a real fight--a brawl--when they come to see him. That's the type of fighter he is. In another couple of fights, we'll see how popular he really gets. Last night's fight will have some effect. He didn't leave any doubt that he is a fighting champion."