Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

An Interview with Eddie Mustafa Muhammad


Eddie Mustafa Muhammad is a former World Boxing Association (WBA) Light Heavyweight Champion who retired in 1988 with a lifetime mark of 50-8-1 (39 kayos). Today Mr. Muhammad is taking on a far bigger foe: the entrenched exploitation of fighters in Professional Boxing. Muhammad is the President and Founder of the Joint Association of Boxing (JAB). Affiliated with the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, JAB is attempting, and succeeding, at organizing a union in the world of Professional Boxing.

DAVE ZIRIN: When did JAB get started?

Eddie Mustafa Muhammad: All this happened last year. A lot of people know I am the type of person who don’t take stuff from nobody I walk the walk and talk the talk. What you see is what you get. So when an attorney named Walter Kane contacted me to discuss JAB, I jumped in there. I went there to organize and let them know what a union is all about.

DZ: Are you finding an audience?

EMM: So far we have 300- 350 fighters signed up on JAB union cards. I get calls from London to South Africa to Mexico. Some of the biggest promoters around the world want to contribute money to JAB. They say, “Champ you are doing a great job.” But some want to see JAB destroyed because they want to keep stealing from the fighter. Boxing is corrupt, let’s get that out front. Why so corrupt? The promoters. The fighters don’t make it corrupt, the promoters do. Influencing judges to make crazy decisions. The fighters are just pawns. A lot of us are not educated on legalities and they want to keep us in that position. The promoters are the reason that boxing is the last major sport without a union. They don’t want these fighters to see what the networks are giving them. The promoter has his hand in the cookie jar and wants to keep it there.

DZ: What kind of response are you getting from the fighters for JAB, from club fighters to the biggest names?

EMM: The biggest names they really don’t need us because they can maintain on their own but the other 99% the 4, 6, or 8 rounders that don’t make it, they need us. The Lennox Lewis’, the Oscar de la Hoyas’, the Roy Jones’ don’t need us. They have been blessed to be great fighters and take care of their own welfare. What I need from those guys is an endorsement that this is something good for fighters to be a part of.

DZ: JAB is affiliated with The International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Other sports unions are independent of larger formations like the Teamsters.

EMM: Being a Teamster means an extra sense of strength and solidarity. (IBT President) James Hoffa treats us with ultimate respect and sees, as we do, that there is a need for protection of fighters. People have learned what a union is all about.

DZ: You have said that you are proud to be a union man. What in your mind is a ‘union man?

EMM: It means’ the blue-collar worker, the hard worker. Someone who stands up for rights and benefits, a pension, all those things that fighters don’t have. A union man means you have purpose. The other 99% of the fighters that don’t make it, that end their careers 8-16, we can make sure they are protected and keep their dignity. You are only as good as your last fight. The promoters are smart. They know the majority of fighters come from the inner city. They are not adept to understanding the intricacies and legalities of a contract and the promoters exploit that. That’s how it is. Whereas being in a union that can’t happen because unions stand up for the hard working individuals and we can’t be bought.

DZ: Why did you, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, throw yourself into this organizing effort.

EMM: First of all I was a world champion. Whatever I said, I’ve done. I can’t be bought. I will challenge anybody that exploits the fighter or exploits the game of boxing no matter who it is. You can be the biggest promoter in the world. I really don’t care. I’m coming after you. This is how I made my livelihood. This is how I got myself out of the inner city and made something of myself so I’m not going to sit around like other guys do and say we should do this and we should do that. I am not going to talk. I am going to do it. After fighting I trained successful 6 guys world champion. I get calls every day but I have to put that on the side to deal with the exploitation of the fighter. I have done everything in boxing. What more can I do except try to clean this up? In boxing, your next fight can always be your last. You can have a great family and all of a sudden you step in the ring and something happens. Who is going to take care of your family? Not the promoter. I don’t see anyone running to the aid of [disabled fighters] Gerald McClellan or Greg Page. Those guys gave their all-great fights? Now who is paying their bills? They have the right to benefits. But if they had a union before their mishaps happened, they would be in a different situation.

DZ: When you see a Greg Page or a Gerald McClellan, do you ever think the sport should just be banned?

EMM: No. This is what we do. But at the end of the day, when our fighting career is over, let’s have something to fall back on. Let’s have a pension. Let’s have medical benefits. Let’s have a retirement package. Let’s have a job waiting for us to keep our dignity. I don’t want charity helping me out. I want to be able to sustain for my own, provide for my family, without throwing a benefit and give me money. I don’t need that. James Brown had a record: Open the door and I’ll get in myself. That’s all I’m saying.

DZ: Have any promoters taken you on?

EMM: They’re not man enough to say it to my face. But there is back biting going on. No doubt about it. The doors are closed they talk about Eddie Mustafa Muhammad like he’s a dog but when the door is open and they take me face to face they want to embrace me but I can dig that because I can see right through you.

DZ: Do you see JAB as a union that would strike to win its demands?

EMM: You know what? We don’t want to do that but if promoters don’t cooperate we will have to take action. I don’t want to strike. All I’m trying to do is create a union for the fighters and their well-being. If any promoter is against this union then they are against a better life for the fighter. That’s all it is. Clear and simple. I am not trying to turn the fighter against the promoter. I am trying to establish something for them to fall back on. What’s wrong with that?

DZ: You guys would also have a most imposing picket line.

EMM: No doubt.

DZ: Other sports unions are notorious for not respecting the picket lines of service industry low paid workers. If the wait staff or custodians in a casino are on strike, would JAB respect their line?

EMM: We would have to honor their picket lines. The bottom line is that we are blue-collar workers. We are what is good for the fighters and I have already been out there on the picket line with other workers. I know how it works. I was asked to take part in sit-downs and I have done that. We are a family. We are Teamsters and we have a lot of strength in numbers.

DAVE ZIRIN can be reached at His sports writing can be read at

DAVE ZIRIN is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press) Contact him at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 28, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
The Outsider-Insider: Isaac Babel’s Big Mistake
Martin Billheimer
Now and Then, Ancient Sorceries
October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare