A number of years ago, when speaking with the superb KO Magazine, heavyweight icon Mike Tyson spoke about when he may have been at his blistering peak. Many times, Tyson had heard “experts” say he was at his very best when blasting out the previously unbeaten Michael Spinks, in a mere 91-seconds, in 1988. However, when asked by KO when he was at his very best, “Iron” Mike responded by saying he was “pretty good the night I beat Alex Stewart.”
By the time of the fight that took place on this very day in 1990, Tyson had lost his cloak of invincibility at the hands of one James Douglas. But was Tyson, as fast, as compact and as ruthlessly determined to prove the loss in Tokyo was a mere fluke, indeed at his very best the night he blitzed through power-hitter Stewart?
The fight, staged at The Convention Hall in Atlantic City, was dubbed “The Hard Road Back.” Tyson, aged 24, entered the bout with a 38-1 record, Stewart, aged 26, was sporting a 26-1 ledger; the sole loss coming against Evander Holyfield in a spirited effort.
Tyson, who had seen off former amateur nemesis Henry Tillman in his first fight back after the loss to Douglas, was a huge betting favourite to defeat Stewart; even if some experts felt “The Destroyer,” as Stewart was known, might give Tyson a stern test.
Tyson Vs. Stewart had originally been set for September 22nd of 1990, but Tyson had suffered a badly cut eye in sparring. The sparring partner who clashed heads with Tyson was none other than Greg Page, the man who had knocked Tyson down in sparring in the run-up to the defence against Douglas.
When Tyson and Stewart finally got it on, Douglas was no longer the heavyweight ruler. On October of 1990, in a disappointing affair, an overweight Douglas had been despatched inside three-rounds by the unbeaten Holyfield. Tyson was now aiming for a shot at “The Real Deal,” as opposed to a rematch with Buster.
Tyson looked awesome in crushing an apparently terrified Stewart, knocking his rival down inside the bout’s opening ten seconds. Stewart, looking like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, got back up, only to be sent crashing two more times. Stewart was not knocked cold, instead being beaten on the three-knockdown rule. It was all over after 2-minutes and 27-seconds of the very first round.
“You don’t lose again!” bellowed a Tyson fan as the former heavyweight champion exited the ring after his swift night’s work. Many experts were inclined to agree with the enthusiastic fan. People pointed to the way Stewart had troubled Holyfield, both hurting him and making him look vulnerable before being stopped in the eighth-round the previous November. Holyfield Vs. Tyson was now the fight everyone wanted to see.
Next up for Tyson, though, would be a match-up with the dangerous Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, who had blasted out Mike Rouse on the Stewart card. Tyson was the number-one contender, Ruddock the number-two.
The Ruddock fight, which took place in March of 1991, was Tyson’s first fight on the Showtime network. Tyson had previously fought on HBO, yet Mike had refused to renew his contract with the cable giant because they had not bent to his demand of releasing commentator Larry Merchant. Merchant had angered Tyson with what Mike felt were unfairly negative comments. Merchant, often great at one-liners, remarked how he was honoured that he was the only man Tyson had ducked in the ring.
Tyson Vs. Ruddock proved to be a far more memorable, and competitive, fight than Tyson-Stewart. The Canadian powerhouse showed no fear and “Razor” took all of Tyson’s bombs without going down and out. The ending proved controversial, as Ruddock, on the ropes and under attack, seemed clear headed enough to have carried on after referee Richard Steele’s premature intervention in the seventh-round. Tyson and Ruddock would meet in a demanded rematch, with Tyson winning a wide yet entertaining 12-round decision in June of ’91.
Tyson never did fight a return with Douglas, and it wasn’t until late 1996 when he eventually met Holyfield; losing in a massive upset to rival his KO defeat to Douglas. As for Stewart, he boxed a number of further big fights – against Michael Moorer in 1991, George Foreman in 1992, as well as a return with Holyfield in ’93 (losing all three encounters but giving Moorer and Foreman a tough night’s work) – before retiring in 1999 with a 43-10(40) record.