On Saturday night, December 8, a cold tide rumbled in off The Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Inside the Convention Center, the temperature was quite comfortable as compared to the frigid winds blowing outside.
While Julio Cesar Chavez was in the ring making quick work of Kyung Duk Ahn, Mike Tyson and Alex Stewart were in their dressing rooms making final preparations before meeting inside the ring.
The year was 1990.
Billed as “The Hard Road Back,” the No. 1 ranked Tyson (38-1, 34 KOs) was on the comeback trail following his astonishing upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in February. Still just 24, he had made quick work of Henry Tillman in June and was now eyeing a step up in competition with Stewart.
Ranked No. 3 in the world, the 26-year-old Stewart (26-1, 26 KOs) had only one loss on his dossier, a hard-fought TKO defeat to Evander Holyfield. Stewart fought bravely, hurting Holyfield in the fifth round before succumbing to a badly cut eye.
“The Destroyer” had demonstrated his power having earned knockouts in all 26 of his victories. On this night, however, he faced a man with sensational knockout power of his own.
With Stewart now in the ring, Tyson was marching towards ringside. “It’s a tribute to Tyson that despite what happened in Tokyo, he has filled this building with about 16,000 people.”
Larry Merchant, seated ringside with Jim Lampley, was calling the fight live for HBO Sports. After Michael Buffer had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, referee Frank Cappuccino gave the fighters final instructions at center ring.
Scheduled for 10 rounds, Lampley offered his final comments while the fighters bounced in their corners. “Stewart has stated that he knows he needs to keep throwing punches to try to keep Tyson occupied.”
Tyson, 24, wasted little time as the bell sounded to begin Round 1. Despite his four-inch height and eight-inch reach advantages, Stewart was unable to keep Tyson off him in the opening seconds of the action. Tyson blasted two thundering right hands off his head which sent Stewart crashing to the canvas.
Many inside the Convention Center had yet to find their seats. Most were now standing as Tyson, wearing his traditional black trunks, charged back in after Cappuccino finished the standing eight count.
Stewart, wearing black trunks trimmed in yellow, was now in full retreat, trying to throw punches back at an onrushing Tyson. The two exchanged furious combinations at mid ring with just under a minute gone in the fight. “Iron Mike” then stepped forward and launched a sweeping overhand right that sent Stewart crashing to the canvas for a second time.
Lampley howled, “That was a flush right hand!” Gamely, Stewart again rose to his feet. Lampley continued, “Taking a good look is Cappuccino, he’s going to let him go. Three knockdown rule is in effect.”
Photo by Corbis
With Stewart clearly hurt and on the defensive, Tyson looked to finish the bout and notch himself another first-round knockout. As Tyson stalked his foe, Merchant remarked, “Stewart must land something or else it’s just a question of a few seconds.”
Almost on cue, Tyson hammered a final left hook to the chin of Stewart, putting him down and out. With the three-knockdown rule in effect, Cappuccino waived off the action at 2:27 of Round 1.
This would be Tyson’s last fight on HBO after nearly five years with the network. He would ink a deal shortly after with Showtime and Donovan “Razor” Ruddock was waiting in the wings.
It’s difficult to believe that these two met nearly 26 years ago. Sadly, this flashback comes on the heels of the passing of Alex Stewart. It was reported that on November 16, Stewart, who was just 52 years old, passed away after suffering from a blood clot in his lung.
I’ll always remember him as an action fighter who gave George Foreman, Michael Moorer and Evander Holyfield all they wanted. Rest in peace, Alex.