EMANUEL STEWARD, 1944-2012
By Scott Shaffer
The boxing world has lost a gentleman, a mentor, and a source of knowledge that will never be replaced. Legendary trainer and manager Emanuel Steward passed away today, reportedly from colon cancer (the cause has not yet been confirmed). Fighting out of the same Brewster gym in Detroit where Joe Louis, Eddie Futch and Ray Robinson used to box, an 18 year-old Steward won the national Golden Gloves Championship in the 118-pound weight class. Steward, who told me once that he had an amateur record of 94-3, mulled over turning pro, but instead pursued a career as an electrician. While working for Detroit Edison, in January of 1970, Steward put his half brother James in the local Golden Gloves tournament, representing a recreation center called Kronk. James won the Golden Gloves that year and Steward was soon asked to run Kronk's boxing program. The following year, every fighter from Kronk won the Golden Gloves. Steward was on his way becoming the greatest trainer of his generation.
Steward is best known for training multi-division champion Thomas Hearns from the time he was eleven to the pinnacle of the sport, pound-for-pound fights against the likes of Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran. Steward also trained and guided other champions such as Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko, Michael Moorer, Hilmer Kenty, Milton McCrory, Gerald McClellan, Jimmy Paul and Duane Thomas. In addition to the names previously mentioned, Steward was sought out by many stars for shorter periods of time, including Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Aaron Pryor, Miguel Cotto, Jermain Taylor and Evander Holyfield. The Kronk Gym produced world class boxers with assembly line precision, to the point where simply wearing the Kronk colors into the ring became a badge of honor. Later in his career, Steward was an insightful boxing analyst for HBO, always giving reliable and honest commentary even if his work with rival boxers presented the opportuity for self-serving statements.
Known as a skilled motivator, Steward was naturally polite and unassuming, but he could turn aggressive when needed. The most memorable example came when Steward, in Lennox Lewis' corner for the Mike Tyson fight, grew frustrated that Lewis was content to merely outbox Tyson instead of pressing for a knockout. Steward repeatedly jabbed Lewis' shoulder and launched into an animated, profane tirade punctuated by, "Get this mother f*cker out of here, man! You're gonna get caught with some crazy sh*t!" It was completely out of character for Steward, but the shock value worked, pushing Lewis outside of his comfort zone to score the signature knockout of his own great career.
In an interview with Boxingtalk's Doveed Linder, Steward summed up his career as follows: "Iíve been in boxing since the 50s and Iím now on my sixth generation. I never thought it would grow like this. I always thought I was going to stay with my job as an electrician. It wasnít until I was about forty-seven that it hit me that I was going to be in boxing for the rest of my life. When it comes to training fighters, Iím from the old schoolĖ beating the heavy bag, skipping rope, speed bag, and lifting your own body weight. I only do a certain amount of the modern stuff."
My closest contact with Emanuel Steward came when I hired him as an expert witness in a boxing lawsuit, in which we represented a well-known boxer being (wrongly) sued by his former manager. Steward had me do the writing, and I was pleasantly surprised at how meticulous he was, carefully reviewing and questioning every sentence I wrote instead of simply signing my work and collecting his fee like he easily could have. On a personal level, I quickly learned that he did not like to be called Manny, even though many people called him that. More importantly, I noticed he deeply and intuitively understood the role of a trainer and manager, beyond any level that could be learned from books or by talking to others. Emanuel Steward lived the sport of boxing, and the science of the game truly flowed through his blood. Despite his Hall of Fame status, I never saw him speak down to anyone, no matter how superior his knowledge was to theirs. He also had an endearing habit of calling people by their first name, even if he had just met them aking whoever he was talking to feel special, as if they were a close friend of the great Emanuel Steward.
If there is a boxing heaven, Emanuel Steward is surely being welcomed by his peers, men like Angelo Dundee, Eddie Futch and Ray Arcel. Rest in peace, Emanuel.
IN HIS OWN WORDS:
As part of the lawsuit, Emanuel and I had to collaborate on a short summary of his accomplishments to submit to the court. Here is what Emanuel and I put together (in his words):
I was born in West Virginia in 1944, and moved to Detroit, Michigan at the age of eleven, where I took up the sport of boxing. In 1963, I won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions as a bantamweight. As an amateur boxer, I compiled a record of 94-3. I never boxed professionally but I remained interested in the sport and, in 1969, I took a job as a part-time coach of the boxing program at the Kronk Recreation Center in Detroit. In 1971, the Kronk team won the Detroit Golden Gloves team title.
The following year, I left my electrician job with Detroit Edison to work full-time in boxing. In 1977, I formed Emanuel Steward's Champions of Tomorrow Boxing Enterprises, Inc. On March 2, 1980, I led my first boxer to a world championship when Hilmer Kenty won a version of the lightweight championship. My boxers continued to experience great success and I became known around the world as a world-class manager and trainer. Thomas Hearns, who went on to win world championships in five different weight classes, became my second world champion, also in 1980, and I received an award for Manager of the Year in 1980.
In 1984, I developed six gold medal winners for the U.S. Olympic Team, including Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Terrell Biggs, Frank Tate, Jerry Page, and Steve McCrory. Other world champion boxers who I have worked with include: Sugar Ray Leonard, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield, Leon Spinks, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Michael Moorer, Naseem Hamed and Aaron Pryor.
I developed my own model boxing glove and improved on equipment which many boxers use. I am employed by Home Box Office, Inc., better known as HBO, as an expert commentator on their boxing telecasts. In my work for HBO, I regularly interview the top boxers, trainers and managers in the world today.
I have been named Trainer of the Year and/or Manager of the Year several times by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and in this decade, I have worked with heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko, middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and welterweight champion Kermit Cintron. Overall, I have worked with 39 different world champion boxers as both a trainer and a manager and I have been enshrined in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, New York as both a manager and a trainer.
Doveed Linder contributed to this story.
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