ATLANTIC CITY,N.J. — ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- The year 1990 was not very good for heavyweight Mike Tyson, who not only lost his heavyweight crown to James "Buster" Douglas, but also saw his financial assets dwindle to $15 million after his divorce from actress Robin Givens.
As he told the judge a month ago while facing charges that he fondled a woman at a Manhattan disco, "I've had a bad year this year."
It appears 1991 will be significantly brighter for Tyson, who can look ahead to megabucks matches against the likes of Donovan "Razor" Ruddock, Evander Holyfield and/or George Foreman zTC after his first-round knockout of Alex Stewart at Convention Hall on Saturday night.
This was the Brooklyn bully reincarnate, as he charged out of his corner at the opening bell and floored Stewart three times before the bout ended after 2 minutes, 27 seconds.
The fight should have been stopped sooner, but referee Frank Cappuccino overlooked the automatic three-knockdown rule and allowed several seconds to tick off the clock before New Jersey commission doctor Frank Doggett ordered him to stop it.
Judging by Tyson's previous two fights in this same ring, this was a long night's work. He needed only 1:31 in June 1988 to beat Michael Spinks and 1:33 in July 1989 to put away Carl "The Truth" Williams.
In his fury, Tyson seemed determined to silence the critics who suggested he was damaged goods after his shocking knockout by James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo.
He showed little respect for Stewart, who entered the fight with a 26-1 record, marred only by a knockout loss by Holyfield, the reigning heavyweight champion.
"Tyson can smell fear," said Ruddock. "I think he looked at Stewart at the final press conference and saw he was already frozen."
Ruddock, if promoter Don King has his way, could be Tyson's next test in early spring. King's blueprint calls for the World Boxing Council to strip Holyfield of his crown for choosing Foreman as his first title defense rather than Tyson. He then would match Tyson and Ruddock for the vacant WBC title.
To date, King's strategy has not worked. Holyfield's attorneys have put a restraining order on the WBC, and the issue could be settled in federal court this week or turned over to an arbitrator.
Without a title at stake, it is doubtful whether King would risk matching Tyson against Ruddock, a Canadian who flattened journeyman Mike Rouse on Saturday's under card to boost his record to 25-1-1, including 18 knockouts.
Ruddock and Tyson were supposed to fight a year ago in Edmonton, Alberta, when "Iron Mike" still was the undisputed champion. But Tyson pulled out of the match, saying his lungs were congested. Cynics say it was because King received a far more lucrative offer from Japanese promoters to fight Douglas in Tokyo.
In any case, Ruddock sued King for failing to fulfill the contract. King could settle matters by agreeing that Ruddock will be Tyson's next foe. A more likely scenario is that King, who is now promoting Ruddock, will give him money to continue to wait his turn while Tyson takes aim at the winner of the April 19 Holyfield-Foreman match in Atlantic City.
"I'm in no hurry," said Tyson. "I'll just keep knocking out the guys in front of me until I have the title again."
Few could dispute King's words that the real Tyson is back. In 147 seconds, a capacity crowd of 17,211 saw the best and worst of Tyson.
He hardly gave Stewart a chance to raise his arms in defense as he floored the Englishman with the first punch that connected, a booming right.
"As soon as I hit him, I knew he was going down," said Tyson. "I knew it was over when I caught him with a right to the body. Believe it or not, I punch harder to the body than the head. I hit anybody, they go."
Stewart beat the count, and Tyson then displayed a touch of the amateur. In his eagerness to finish the job, he threw a wild overhand right that missed the mark, throwing himself to the canvas.
Not showing any embarrassment, he dropped Stewart again in a neutral corner with a chopping right high on the head. Stewart got up again, but this time on wobbly legs, and Tyson trapped him on the ropes and pummeled his helpless foe with left hooks until he slumped to the canvas for the last time.
"They thought I was some cocky, arrogant black kid who lost to a better man in Buster Douglas. But that's bull. I'm the best."
In the next six months, Tyson should have ample opportunity to prove the point. The only real question is who's next?
* Junior welterweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez of Mexico was almost as impressive as Tyson in successfully defending his title with a third-round technical knockout over Kyung-Duk Ahn, of South Korea.
If anything, Chavez, who raised his incredible record to 73-0 with 60 knockouts, was unhappy that Ahn offered so little resistance, refusing to continue after being floored four times.
"He should have had more guts," said Chavez. "The public deserves better. I was surprised he quit. I hit him with some good shots to knock him down the first three times, but the fourth time wasn't that powerful."
Chavez is looking ahead to more lucrative matches, against Meldrick Taylor and Hector "Macho" Camacho. He rallied to knock out Taylor in the 12th round last March, but negotiations for a rematch have stalled.
"I don't think Taylor will fight me again," Chavez said. "I'd like to fight Camacho to shut his big mouth."
March 6 Hector Mercedes
April 10 Trent Singleton
June 20 Rick Spain
July 11 John Anderson
Aug. 15 Lorenzo Canady
Sept. 5 Michael Johnson
Oct. 9 Donnie Long
Oct. 25 Robert Colay
Nov. 1 Sterling Benjamin
Nov. 13 Eddie Richardson
Dec. 6 Sam Scaff
Dec. 27 Mark Young
Jan. 11 David Jaco
June 13 Reggie Gross
June 28 William Mosea
July 26 Marvis Frazier
June 27 Michael Spinks
July 21 Carl Williams
June 6 Henry Tillman
Dec. 8 Alex Stewart