In sad and shocking news it has been reported how 1980’s and ’90’s heavyweight contender Alex Stewart has died at the far too premature age of just 52. Reports are sketchy at this point and Stewart’s cause of death has not been confirmed. A pure puncher and a genuinely exciting fighter, Stewart was also a softly-spoken, even shy person who some felt was too much of a gentle soul to be a prize fighter.
Nevertheless, the London-born Stewart made a name for himself in the heavyweight division at a time when it was full of stars. A good amateur, Stewart represented Jamaica where he relocated to before settling in America to turn pro in 1986. Powerfully built and carrying serious power in both hands, Stewart romped to a straight 24-0, all by KO – before he met his first real test in the form of an unbeaten Evander Holyfield in late 1989.
Stewart lost the fight and his perfect record but he more than showed his worth – with his gritty performance rocking Holyfield, hurting him and generally making “The Real Deal” look anything but. Stewart could and would come again after the TKO defeat. “The Destroyer,” as Stewart was known, returned with two easy wins, before he was matched with Mike Tyson. Tyson, coming back after his stunning loss to Buster Douglas, fought Stewart in his second return bout, in December of 1990 (the fight had been postponed from a few months earlier due to Tyson suffering a cut in sparring).
The fight was no contest, as “nice guy” Stewart froze and was taken out by a rampaging Tyson. The three-knockdown rule came into play as Stewart hit the mat a sufficient amount of times for referee Frank Cappuccino to halt the slaughter. Stewart, who had been expected by some to test Tyson severely, the way he had Holyfield, was written off by many fans. But two further big fights awaited Stewart, with the 28-year-old restoring his fighting pride in both.
Eight months after the Tyson loss, with one win in-between, Stewart fought Michael Moorer, who was still getting used to the heavyweight waters having been a fearsome 175-pounder. Stewart had Moorer badly hurt in the early going – prompting commentator Larry Merchant to say, “Welcome to the heavyweight division, Michael Moorer” – but once again he let his opponent off the hook; Moorer coming back to score a nasty 4th-round TKO.
Now “hand-picked” by George Foreman as a safe enough opponent in his ongoing comeback, Stewart gave “Big” George an almighty shock in April of 1992. Foreman, not in the best of shape, dropped Stewart twice in the early going, looking set for a second round win, but this time it was Stewart himself who was able to come back in a fight. As Foreman tired and began to mark up, eventually to shocking and grotesque level, his eyes hammered shut, Stewart was able to tag him again and again.
Foreman had to go through hell to scrape a ten-round majority verdict that could easily have gone Stewart’s way. Foreman later said it felt as though Stewart had “bricks in his gloves.” A return meeting with Holyfied in 1993 proved to be a disappointing affair, with both men seemingly happy to go through the motions, Holyfield winning a wide 12-round decision in his first fight back after losing to Riddick Bowe.
Stewart boxed on sporadically, winning some (including a wild slugfest with Ezra Sellers in 1998, Stewart’s final win) and losing others. Finally, an early stoppage loss to huge Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzalez ended Stewart’s once highly promising career, his retirement coming in the summer of 1999.
Stewart, who retired with a more than respectable 43-10(40) record, may not have become champion, but he helped light up the heavyweight division during an era that was ultra-competitive.
Our condolences go out to Alex’ family and friends.