For the chance to take up boxing Hosea Stewart had to strike a deal with his mother first.
Before the age of 18 there was a motherly rule put in place: No boxing. Once the milestone birthday had been reached then he was free to pursue his dream of becoming a champion.
“I wanted to box before that, but she was like, ‘No you’re not taking no punches to the head’. I said, ‘Alright then we have a deal, when I’m 18, a man then I can box then’. She said, ‘Fair enough, if you want to do it then do it’. We took it from there.”
In the six years that followed Stewart would go on to win GB amateur honours, Midlands titles and an ABA silver medal. Fatherhood and a wrist injury, that would keep him on the side-lines for 18 months, taught him the valuable lesson of patience and a reminder that there is more to life than boxing.
Last month Stewart officially closed the chapter on his amateur days to begin the story of his life as a professional fighter. The heavyweight became one of Wasserman Boxing’s first signings, the promotional outfit which acquired Sauerland Boxing but retained the valuable services of brothers Kalle and Nisse. Stewart is one of six new British names added to their roster as they aim to become a leading player when their first show hopefully lands later in the year.
The amateur circuit for Stewart was about taking steps, making progress and continually developing but the endgame has always been about realising a long-held ambition.
“Being the heavyweight world champion,” Stewart revealed while speaking to Boxing Social as he finished another training session.
And of the decision to ink terms with Wasserman: “Starting with Wasserman, that feels great. Working with the Sauerland brothers, as we know they’re majorly experienced with heavyweights. They’ve got big plans. I believe in their vision; I believe in mine, so I think it was definitely the right choice to make.”
The when and where of Stewart’s and Wasserman’s promotional debut is still under wraps. September or October, he believes, but for now it’s a case of ‘Keep it real, or keep it moving’ – a motto that fronts his Instagram page.
His explanation of the phrase: “Anyone that’s associated with me, be upfront. Make everything clear with what we’re doing, how we associate or go elsewhere.”
Hosea had to go elsewhere after being unable to finish his secondary education. Kicked out for a ‘variety of reasons’ is his recollection.
“I wasn’t the best-behaved kid, but I wasn’t the worst either.”
Leaving life as a school pupil before 16 may feel like a sense of freedom and escapism but it isn’t long before the reality of square one hits you. Wondering what is next and where it will come from is an intimidating thought particularly when there isn’t a direction to go in.
“I felt a bit where do I go from here, what’s out there for me, how do I do it,” Stewart said. “It was all about finding myself, finding what’s right again, just getting that maturity, seeing things for what it is and taking it from there.”
Kirkwood Walker, the owner of the Firewalker Gym in Wolverhampton, introduced Hosea to coach Joby Clayton (who worked with Anthony Joshua in 2019). It wasn’t long before the wheels were in motion. Mum’s comments of ‘Taking no punches to head’ didn’t need to act as a reminder following her son around because in the beginning, he would carry out chores like cleaning the gym before observing classes. Eventually the time would come where a conversation was to take place. A sit down with Stewart to see where he wanted to go in life.
“They asked do I want to do fitness instructing; do I want to box? So, I told them I want to be a world champion, so they said, ‘Alright then, championships start in seven weeks, get training I’m going to get you in there ‘.
Even now Stewart is still taken aback by the leap into the deep end but faced the opportunity head on.
“I was like, ‘Cool get me in there’. Took it from there and never stopped from then.”
He may have begun boxing later than he would have liked but the atmosphere of a big fight night was something that his family soaked up when he was a child. With the television playing the latest of the sport’s offerings Stewart’s Uncles would encourage their nephew to get on one of their punch bags indoors. ‘Go on, get on the bag!’ they would say.
“It felt good, and I’d watch the likes of Lennox Lewis doing his thing. I always wanted to hear my name as undisputed heavyweight world champion. It always used to ring in my head,” Stewart said.
He would hear his name called out as winner when in amateur events. As soon as life at Firewalker got going so did the number of fights. Saturdays then Sundays, then the week after that, and the week after that. Seven fights in and his L plates were being put to the test against champions and that would become a habit such was his development from a novice, who didn’t know where to go or how to get started, to someone that people were beginning to pay attention to.
Recalling those days Stewart is glad of his time in the deep end. His survival and ability to progress has stood him in good stead. He had no time to take his time.
“It was a good experience just being able to come out my comfort zone and on paper be outmatched but perform in the ring and show otherwise. So, it was good character building.”
Tests of character, as well as maturity, were soon to arrive. Fatherhood at 21-years-old is another chance for the analogy, ‘In at the deep end’ to fit. The young man took on his duties and is now a dad of two. But at 21 Stewart had to balance the role of being a young parent with the frustration of not being able to box for 18 months due to an ongoing wrist injury that was pushed too far. He admitted it was mentally challenging but there was a blessing in disguise to it as well as he explained.
“Well at that time as soon as I won the GB championships or just before that I found out my missus was pregnant so that motivated me. Then I got the call up to represent England for the GBs. I was fighting with a fractured wrist for about a year and a half though. We just thought it was a sprain or something. Went in the gym, did a few wrist exercises, got to sparring, doing my strength and conditioning, just going about it as usual. Bit by bit it was getting worse and after I won the GBs it snapped in my next fight. I was out for a year and half after that, and my son was born during that time as well. It was hard finding that balance being a new dad and getting back into the swing of things but we were getting there bit by bit, just chipping away.
“Mentally it weren’t the best because my whole thing was boxing. I wanna be a boxer, I just wanna spar, work hard but I wasn’t able to do that. I couldn’t even do press ups, couldn’t even lift dumb bells so it was a whole rebuilding process from the ground up. Once we got over that I was able to get back punching, but you just want to rush into it. Again, that was a whole maturity building process as an athlete even though I was injured there was other things I could have been doing. I had to be stricter with my maintenance [on my wrist], even though I was doing it, I should have been doing it a lot more, strengthening it up. I’ve learned from that and God willing it don’t happen but if I get another injury in the future, I know how to manage it correctly and keep myself sharp.
“It was good to get that family time, being a first-time dad, it was good to spend time with my son and get to see his early development. I guess it all went in hand, so it wasn’t the right time continue boxing, I guess. We’re back now making further steps towards my future.”
By the end of 2022 and into 2023 Hosea Stewart will hope to be striding towards big fights and seeing his reputation soar. If Wasserman’s plans and ambitions are realised then we will soon know more about this young, humble heavyweight who likes to, ‘Make them miss and make them pay’. One man that already knows plenty about him is Anthony Joshua. The WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion has already sparred Stewart, sent him good luck messages and sees similarities in their mutual backgrounds and boxing beginnings. It’s pinch yourself stuff for Stewart as he explained how the pair came to know one another.
“Ben Whittaker is based at my gym as well at Firewalker, so when he was at Team GB, he got AJ to send me a message, like a little good luck message before a final I was in. That in itself… not even being five months into my career and the heavyweight world champion saying. ‘All the best, good luck champ’, I thought, ‘Wooo’.
And as Stewart’s smile got wider you sense his face will always light up when he shares that memory with anyone else. That was just the beginning of his time with Joshua.
“Two and a half years later I get the call again and they say the big man wants to work with you so get down to London. I thought that’s a big change! Every time he fights, I watch him, I’m a big AJ supporter and I’ve known about AJ from the 2011 World Championships. I remember my cousin saying, ‘This is the spot where you need to be. You need to watch these guys.’ The fact that AJ has been able to get that work in with me, it’s good, it’s encouraging.”
Sparring Joshua then. The obvious thing to ask next is how did it go?
“After every spar we come out the ring and he spoke very highly of me and gave me some encouraging words and again he doesn’t need to,” Stewart answered.
“The fact he’s gone out his way and said x, y, z about me… it sinks in. I’m like, ‘Serious?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, fair play’. It’s encouraging knowing I’m doing the right things. Just got to keep doing what I’m doing and more and the rest is history from there.”
Now 24, Stewart said he is not wanting to ‘Wait around for years’ when it comes to facing high-level opposition. Being fast-tracked or taking it one fight at a time though isn’t on his mind. The heavyweight wants to get going and prove beyond reasonable doubt that not only were Wasserman right to sign him but that he is a future champion. Matchmaking in the early days for a non-Olympian heavyweight, at 25 or under, will ensure no unnecessary risks are taken but Stewart is willing to take on whoever is in front of him so long as it means that he and his career are moving forward.
“I’d say I’ve got good experience fighting against high level opposition. As long as I’m busy and getting the right experience. I’m looking forward to it.
“There’s a big pool of fighters that are young and hungry, like me. Everyone’s got ambition, which is good, it’s exciting. Wouldn’t want it any other way so at least when you achieve what you achieve, with the level of opposition there’s not much question or debate about it. Hold your head high after all your achievements.”
Hosea Stewart has been holding his head high with pride ever since boxing transformed him into a man and a talented fighter. He has been chasing dreams since hearing the words, ‘Heavyweight champion’ when he was a child. The next step is under-way, but he is not self-absorbed by one idea, one dream. There are others to think about and if he can fight, win and do something for loved ones and his community then he is on his way to an honourable legacy at the very least.
“For me it’s about chasing all my dreams, doing it all the right way and creating a legacy for myself to be proud of. I’ve got two kids; I want to be that male role model they look up to and say, ‘I want to take something from dad’s life to make me better’. Those little things. I’ve got nephews and nieces and I want them to do the same. The local kids around the community, for them to look at me and say he’s from here, he’s been able to go on and do x, y, and z, I can do the same and more. It’s all about being a pillar of the community at the end of the day.”
And when boxing fans tune in for the very first time to watch Hosea Stewart on his debut what should they expect?
“Should expect some high-quality boxing. I do believe I’ve got a good boxing IQ. Sharp, got a lot of speed and hopefully a nice clean knockout. That’s what I’m aiming for. You gotta respect the science of the sport. Make them miss and make them pay definitely. Don’t have to take any unnecessary damage. If I can outclass my opponents, make them miss, and win clean I’m gonna do that all day.”
Images courtesy of Hosea Stewart