DOVER, Del. — Dover Downs Hotel & Casino President and CEO, Ed Sutor, will present to New Castle’s Mike “No Joke” Stewart, former USBA Junior Welterweight Champion, a plaque in recognition of Stewart’s accomplishments in boxing since beginning his professional career in July 1996.
“We feel that it is absolutely fitting to recognize the many contributions made by Mike Stewart to the sport of boxing in Delaware,” said Sutor. “At Dover Downs Hotel & Casino alone, Mike for a long time was the biggest draw on our cards and very often the headliner. He had, and still has, a huge following of fans and supporters who in no small way contributed to numerous sold-out boxing events here. We want Mike to know that we recognize his career accomplishments as noteworthy on the Delaware boxing scene and that he has earned our gratitude and respect for his commitment to the sport.”
Born in Columbia, Tenn., 35-year-old Stewart, Golden Glove winner in 1995, said that boxing as a youngster helped him stay out of trouble. “I’ve been boxing since 11 with my older brother, Richard. It opened a lot of doors for us coming up, and we met a lot of good people who wanted us to succeed.”
Stewart’s professional boxing career began on July 26, 1996, when in his debut he delivered a knockout punch in round 2 against Ed Daubert. That would be the beginning of a 30-fight unbeaten streak, which lasted until February 2002, when Dorin Spivey, then 28-2, received a 10-round split decision against Stewart.
Stewart won the USBA Junior Welterweight Championship title on March 21, 2003, in the Rollins Center with a seventh round knockout over Philadelphia’s Charles “Chucky T” Tschorniawsky. Stewart successfully defended that title against former world champion Terron Millet in June 2003 and former world title challenger Ivan “Mighty” Robinson in November 2003, both being stopped by TKO in the seventh and eighth rounds, respectively.
Having won all four of his fights in 2003 by knockout, Stewart was now a top-ranked contender in the International Boxing Federation. On April 3, 2004, Stewart travelled to Manchester, England, where he dropped a unanimous decision to interim IBF junior welterweight champion Sharmba Mitchell.
Stewart returned to Philadelphia in June 2004 and stopped Carlos Antonio Escobar in seven rounds before again trekking to Manchester to face unbeaten Ricky Hatton in an IBF title eliminator on Oct. 1, 2004. Once again, Stewart’s world title aspirations would be placed on hold after Hatton defeated him in five rounds.
Undaunted, Stewart and his family went to California in 2005 to participate in “The Contender: Season Two,” which aired on ESPN. Stewart drew tough Ebo Elder in the first round, and knocked him out with a sweeping left hook in round 4.
Stewart endeared himself to millions of viewers when he explained how tough the win was for him because their families had become close. “His wife and my wife went shopping together. My kids played with his kids,” Stewart said immediately after the bout. Stewart would drop a decision to eventual champion Grady Brewer in the next bout. Still, the experience was a success considering the episodes featuring Stewart drew some of the highest ratings. “The Contender” television series was The Ring magazine Event of the Year for 2005.
By now, Stewart had 45 bouts under his belt. After going 3-2, with one no-contest in his next six fights, Stewart took an 18-month hiatus from the sport, during which he started his own construction contracting company.
Stewart returned to the ring at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino on April 24, 2009, and did not receive another loss until the final fight of his pro career in the Rollins Center on May 18, 2012, levied by Christopher Fernandez. Stewart retires with a Delaware record-setting 59 fights (48-8-3, 25 KOs), 12 executed at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
On his retirement from the ring, Stewart says he still has work to do in the sport and currently sits on the Board for the Delaware Division for Professional Regulation in hopes of getting a boxing commission started in the state. “I believe in Delaware’s amateur fighters and their need to have the fan base to support them. I want to be there every step of the way with my guys. I continue to reach out to anyone who will listen about the importance of backing amateur shows in Delaware.”
Stewart will be presented with a plaque in his honor by Ed Sutor during the Nov. 22 card and will present the fight of the night trophy following the final bout. Stewart, proud Member of the Roofers Local Union #30 and the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union #332, resides in New Castle, Del., with his wife Lisa of 14 years and their two daughters, Brittney and Jasmine. “When a boxer can’t give one hundred percent to his craft, there is a big risk of getting seriously hurt. Lisa and the girls have made sacrifices for my career and supported my time away in the gym and the ring, and it does my heart good to now spend that time focusing on them.”