On July 27 in the summer of 1991, HBO was in Norfolk, VA, to call a doubleheader headlining hometown son Pernell Whitaker defending his title against Spain’s Poli Diaz.
The telecast was complete with an update on the possibility of rape charges being filed against Mike Tyson in Indianapolis and a live, ringside interview with Heavyweight champion, Evander Holyfield.
Before the main event festivities kicked off, and prior to those updates from around the world of boxing, there was an undercard fight poised to steal some of this nights thunder. Michael Moorer (24-0, 24 KOs), ranked 12th in the world, was set to meet fifth ranked Alex Stewart (27-2, 27 KOs).
This was Moorer’s third fight at Heavyweight after relinquishing the Light Heavyweight crown and leaving the cash starved 175-pound division.
It’s a safe assumption that most of the fans who crammed into Norfolk’s Scope Arena were in the house to see Whitaker show his stuff. What a treat the packed house received with Moorer and Stewart getting the evening rolling.
Moorer had many unanswered questions as he was early into his Heavyweight campaign. Stewart, an experienced Heavyweight himself, had suffered his only two losses to future Hall of Famers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
Neither fighter had gone the distance with 51 knockouts between them. After Michael Buffer’s introductions, you got a sense of what was coming. As both fighters came to the center of the ring for the referee Chris Wollesen’s instructions, Moorer quipped, “Can’t say he’s cute.”
With George Foreman, Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley calling the action, the opening bell rang and all hell broke loose.
One minute into Round 1, Moorer—a southpaw wearing the Kronk Gym red and gold colors—had a bloody nose. Both fighters, measured in their efforts, began trading jabs and straight rights and lefts.
A body punch by Stewart drove Moorer into the ropes who then countered with a right uppercut that sent Stewart to the canvas.
Rising to his feet with a cut over his left eye, Stewart was floored again with 15 seconds remaining in the round by a mammoth left hook.
Stewart survived the opening stanza to begin landing his own power shots in Round 2.
The slugfest was fully underway.
Fighting in the center of the ring with just over a minute remaining in Round 2, Stewart, wearing black trunks with yellow stripes, landed a devastating right cross that sent Moorer wobbling into the ropes.
Moorer fought back as Stewart bulled him back into the ropes. As an excited Foreman was screaming about the right hand Stewart had just landed, Lampley, hollering over Foreman, said, “You can see Moorer does not cover up when he’s hurt, he throws punches instead!”
The bell rang to bring the second round action to a close and both fighters walked to Moorer’s corner. Emanuel Steward, Moorer’s trainer, calmly shooed Stewart away who then turned and headed across the ring to his corner.
Larry Merchant chimed in, “All I can say about that round was wow, and wow again!”
Round 3 was more of the same, the ebb and flow of the action was intense as both fighters went back and forth, landing power punches. Stewart appeared to be getting the better of the action and was turning the fight in his favor.
Stewart had survived a hellacious first round, hurt Moorer in the second, and was beginning to take control in the third. The action continued into the fourth and both fighters began to bang away at each other again.
With Stewart now in command, the tide changed as Moorer, still standing toe-to-toe with Stewart, landed a sweeping right uppercut at the midway point of the round.
As Stewart went limp from head-to-toe, a second uppercut landed sending Stewart face first into the mat. He rose—now cut over both eyes—face bloodied, as Wollesen waved his hand feverishly above his head.
He had seen enough.
Moorer went on to win the Heavyweight championship later in his career. Stewart, always fighting hard and playing the role of spoiler, never reached that zenith.
It is interesting to note that Foreman, who was so energized calling the action that night, went on to fight both men.
In April of 1992, he faced Stewart and, although bloodied and battered, won a majority decision. The pinnacle of Foreman’s second career was reached when he lifted the title from Moorer in November of 1994.
Oh how I long for the days when the big guys were fun to watch.