6:22PM EDT October 25. 2012 - Emanuel Steward, a Hall of Fame trainer and iconic figure in Detroit who put his hometown on the boxing map by turning out some of the greatest fighters the sport has seen, died Thursday in a Chicago area hospital.
He was 68.
Steward had been suffering from diverticulitis, but there were various reports that he had stage 4 colon cancer as well. He has been hospitalized since September and underwent surgery recently for diverticulitis, a stomach disorder, according to his sister, Diane Steward-Jones.
Steward-Jones, who handled business and public relations for Steward, told the Detroit Free Press she and several family members were by his side.
“He has passed – he’s gone home,” Steward-Jones told the Free Press by phone. “He was in no pain, and we sang to him, as well as did the doctors present. He had loved ones around him.”
Steward-Jones said even toward the end her brother tried to recruit male nurses and other medical staff to box for him. “They loved him,” Steward-Jones said. “He’d tell them to lose some weight and fight for him.”
Steward was a fighter himself in his early years, compiled a 96-3 amateur record, and was the 1963 Golden Gloves bantamweight champion. But it was as a teacher of boxing where he made his mark, and what eventually got him elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.
Steward, who for the last 11 years had been a boxing analyst for HBO, was the cornerman for such great Detroit-area fighters as 1980s-era champions Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty and Milton McCrory. He later trained heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
Klitschko who is training for a Nov. 10 title defense against Mariusz Wach, released a statement that read:
“Vitali (Wladimir’s brother) and I, along with the entire Team Klitschko, send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Emanuel’s family and friends. It is not often that a person in any line of work gets a chance to work with a legend. Well I was privileged enough to work with one for almost a decade.”
He worked with his fighters in the cramped, but legendary Kronk Gym in downtown Detroit. The original Kronk closed down in 2006, and has since moved to another part of Detroit.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who has been promoting boxing for nearly 50 years, said Steward will be sorely missed by the boxing community.
“We are all grieving the passing of our friend Emanuel Steward. His founding and leadership of the Kronk Gym in Detroit was outstanding,” Arum said. “His efforts produced many world class fighters and champions including Tommy Hearns, Milt McCrory, Michael Moorer and many more.
“Emanuel Steward always stood for the best that boxing could offer. He will be missed by all of us.”
At the time of his death, Steward was the head trainer for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, and had worked as a highly respected boxing analyst for HBO, with partners Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Max Kellerman since 2001.
“There are no adequate words to describe the enormous degree of sadness and loss we feel at HBO Sports with the tragic passing of Manny Steward,” HBO President Ken Hershman said in a statement. “For more than a decade, Manny was a respected colleague who taught us so much not only about the sweet science but also about friendship and loyalty.
“His energy, enthusiasm and bright smile were a constant presence. Ten bells do not seem enough to mourn his passing. His contributions to the sport and to HBO will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Steward, who was born in West Virginia and moved to Detroit at age 12, was well known for his charity work in Detroit with the Kronk Gym Foundation, which helped kids in need get training and an education.
Frank Garza, a leading Michigan boxing referee and close friend of Steward’s, told theFree Press: “Emanuel was Mr. Boxing in Detroit. He was like
Gordie Howe is to Detroit hockey and Al Kaline to Detroit baseball.
“He loved to live and he loved to give. He was a down-to-earth guy when you
were with him. As a trainer, he was a brilliant strategist. If you ever wanted
to win a fight, you just listened to his advice.”
Contributing: The Detroit Free Press