The primal force, the fighting machine that was Mike Tyson in his pre-Buster Douglas period, reappeared in all its fury at the Atlantic City Convention Hall Saturday night.
Against a very good heavyweight, Alex Stewart, who made heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield fight for his life here 13 months ago, Tyson scored a knockout at 2:27 of the first round.
Fighting before 17,211, Tyson heavily reinforced his argument that Holyfield should be required to fight him, not George Foreman.
Remember those other one- and two-round Tyson victories? Michael Spinks? Carl Williams? Trevor Berbick? Marvis Frazier? Tony Tubbs? Forget them. Tyson never looked as good as he did Saturday night.
The 24-year-old former champion knocked the British-born, Jamaica-raised and Brooklyn-based Stewart down three times before referee Frank Capuccino stopped the fight. Tyson was down once himself--from his own wild right hand that missed Stewart so completely that Tyson lost his feet.
Capuccino was so caught up in the Tyson onslaught under the hot lights that he started a count over Stewart after the third knockdown. The fight ended when Stewart hit the deck for the third time because the three-knockdown rule was in effect.
Many in boxing wondered if the punishment Tyson absorbed in his upset loss to Buster Douglas in Tokyo had left him a lesser fighter, perhaps dulled the edge of his combativeness. Forget it.
Perhaps it is the building. For Tyson’s opponents, the Atlantic City Convention Hall--home of the Miss America pageant--is a torture chamber, a cavernous old arena on the boardwalk where this Brooklyn-raised street kid hurts and humiliates you.
In his last three appearances there, Tyson had beaten Spinks in 91 seconds and Carl Williams in 93 seconds. Stewart required 147 seconds.
Stewart wouldn’t have taken so long, but he kept getting up.
Tyson is 2-0 since losing to to Douglas, 39-1 overall, $5-million richer and only a bit sorry he beat up a nice guy such as Stewart. Tyson knocked out Henry Tillman in the first round in Las Vegas last June, but Stewart was a much more formidable opponent.
“Alex Stewart is a nice guy, a class act, and I’m sorry it had to end this way,” he said.
Tyson said his best punch of the round was a right hand to the body, before the first knockdown.
“I’m a better body puncher than a head puncher,” he said. “When I catch a guy clean to the body like that, I don’t have to worry any more.”
Tyson had Stewart down seconds into the fight. He missed with his first punch, a long right, threw another and it landed flush. Stewart toppled over, took his standing-eight count, and got up. Then he began the worst possible deployment--he started backing up.
Tyson chased him, then caught him. He hit him with another long right and Stewart was down again. When he caught Stewart seconds later in a neutral corner, he finished him with a left hook.
Tyson came in trim, at 217 3/4 pounds. Against Douglas in Tokyo, he was a slightly fleshy 220 1/2. Stewart weighed 218. Thirteen months ago in this building, Stewart had the No. 1 contender, Holyfield, in desperate trouble several times before losing because of a cut.
No one before Saturday would have refused Stewart recognition as one of the world’s three or four best heavyweights. But against this angry former champion, he was nearly defenseless. It was Tyson’s 19th one-round knockout; 25 of his 40 opponents have failed to make it to the end of Round 2.
Tyson was to have fought Stewart (26-2) here last September but suffered an eye cut in training, forcing a postponement.
The former champion later acknowledged that he isn’t the most popular champion, but then further indicated he feeds off that perception. He was answering a question about a possible lack of confidence in himself after the loss to Douglas.
“I never lost my confidence,” he said. “I know that disappoints a lot of people, I know a lot of people wanted to see this cocky black kid fall . . . but I didn’t. I am the best.”
Donovan (Razor) Ruddock, thought to be a rising force in the heavyweight division, fought on the undercard, and the man who will probably be matched against Tyson this spring knocked out hopelessly outclassed Mike Rouse in the first round.
The powerful (6-3, 228) Ruddock (25-1-1), was to have fought Tyson in Edmonton 13 months ago but missed that opportunity when Tyson pulled out of the fight, claiming illness.
Ruddock beat Rouse (13-6-1 and a loser of five of his last seven) with what seemed to be a tame left hook midway through the first round. Rouse got up at the five count and wobbled to the ropes, where Ruddock finished him with a powerful, driving right to the chin.
A year ago, Ruddock’s promoter, Murad Muhammad, was suing Don King for pulling Tyson out of the Canada fight, but they now appear to have made up. King has promised a Tyson-Ruddock fight in the spring, or near the time (April 19) George Foreman challenges Evander Holyfield.