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Matt Maher: Hungry Hosea Stewart aims to call the shots in the ring

Standing more than six feet tall and at over 20 stone in weight, Hosea Stewart is the last guy you'd try to push around.

Wolverhampton heavyweight Hosea Stewart at Firewalker martial arts
Wolverhampton heavyweight Hosea Stewart at Firewalker martial arts

Yet having grown up with six older sisters, the Wolverhampton heavyweight hasn't always gotten his own way.

“It was like having six extra mothers,” laughs Stewart. “I had absolutely no say in the house when I was younger.

“I’m the second youngest of eight and the only boy. My eldest sister is 14 years older then me. The house could be chaos at times, but it was always fun.”

From childhood companions, Stewart’s sisters are now his biggest supporters as he targets glory as a professional boxer.

“They put the fight in me from an early age,” he smiles. “They made it clear to me from the early days to always make sure you defend yourself. They always kept me the right track, too. Anytime I was starting to sway, they would crack the whip.

“It is a tight-knit family and we are all close. They’ve been to all my fights, including those when I was an amateur. They make the most noise in the place, that is for sure.”

Next on the calendar is a rematch with Franklin Ignatius next Friday, December 2, after the pair’s first meeting in July ended in a draw.

That was just Stewart’s third bout since turning pro and his willingness to take on another unbeaten prospect so early in his career says plenty about his ambition.

“It is a big risk,” he says. “But I relish the challenge and believe I am more than capable.

“If you don’t aim high in this sport, then you can start to drift. I think you should set realistic but high goals, to keep yourself going.

“I want to build slowly and keep grabbing those titles along the way. In the long-term, I am only aiming for world honours.”

Like many boxers, Stewart credits the sport with providing him a pathway and a purpose. Though the cliché “gentle giant” now fits the softly-spoken 25-year-old personality perfectly, there was a time when that was not always the case.

Asked which school he attended – that standard question of any local newspaper interview – Stewart breaks into a slightly guilty smile before replying: “Numerous.”

He continues: “My last one was St Chads in Low Hill. I was kicked out when I was 15.

“I had a few issues. There were many reasons. Essentially, I was being young and reckless, not really understanding myself. I knew I needed a purpose. I just wasn’t sure what it was.”

The turning point for Stewart came at the age of 18 when he met Kirkwood Walker, the five-time world kickboxing champion and the founder of the Firewalker gym in Wolverhampton.

“I was doing an apprenticeship scheme and was always saying I wanted to do something in sport,” he says.

“My family has always been big on boxing. Both my uncle and grandad boxed, my cousins too. I’d done a bit of training but didn’t really know there was a pathway until I met Kirkwood.

“He told me he could I might easily head down the wrong path and wanted to give me an opportunity. The message was: ‘It is up to you if you take it to the fullest’.

“It was just nice to have someone who believed in me from the get-go.”

From there, things moved quickly. Despite having just one amateur bout to his name, Stewart was entered into the national championships and got all the way to the final.

In his seventh fight, he defeated three-time Canadian champion Christophe Bernier, a result which earned praise from the man then the best heavyweight in the world.

“I got a text from Anthony Joshua, saying how impressed he was,” recalls Stewart. “I thought: ‘I’ve only been doing this about five weeks and the world heavyweight champion is dropping me a message’. That’s when it started to get real.”

Stewart, who would go on to win two Midlands titles, a GB amateur crown and box for England, would later spar with Joshua during the latter’s training camp for the world title defence against Kubrat Pulev in December, 2020.

His own career was held up by a wrist injury but he is now eager to make his mark in what is an increasingly strong domestic heavyweight division, which includes Smethwick’s Solomon Dacres among the prospects.

“It is a packed division and that is the exciting thing. This is a special time to be a heavyweight,” says Stewart, who has sparred reigning WBA champion Daniel Dubois in preparation for the Ignatius rematch. “There are a lot of young, hungry fighters coming through.

“Everyone is looking to get to the pinnacle of the sport and when there is good competition around. I’m relishing the challenge.”

Stewart has always been naturally big and jokes how in old school photos: “I looked like everyone’s dad.”

He weighed in at 24-and-a-half stone for his professional debut against Mait Metsis last November but was more than a stone lighter when he met Ignatius and the plan is to eventually get his fighting weight down to around 20.

“It has to be a steady, gradual process. We are just chipping away,” says Stewart. “I’m 6ft 3in in height so we think around 20 to 21 stone would be my ideal weight.

“As a boxer, one of my main strengths is I’m a natural fighter. I believe that is what has separated me from a lot of guys. I am a fighter and they are athletes.

“I am quick, for a heavyweight, I carry power and I believe I am skilled. I take that aspect of the sport very seriously. Skill is one thing which never goes.

“You can lose speed and power with age but skill, you can always improve.”

Stewart, first coached by Joby Clayton at Firewalker, now trains full-time under the guidance of former pro Anthony Manning at his gym in south Birmingham.

“I’m in the gym every day and I am feeling good. I am going to give it everything,” he says.

“I played other sports when I was younger – football and rugby – but they never gripped me. Boxing? As soon as I went to the gym, I knew I had to go back.

“It is all down to you whether you succeed or not. In the ring, it all comes down to you and that challenge alone is enough to keep you going.

“You can’t leave any stone unturned. When you succeed the feeling is great because you know you have put the work in.”

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