On October 25th, 2012, the boxing world lost a beloved, renowned, highly respected world class trainer, analyst, and former National Golden Gloves Bantamweight champion. Often referred to as “Manny” from fans, Emanuel Steward was without a doubt one of the greatest trainers the sport has ever seen. Plenty has been said by various sources about Steward’s accomplishments. The 41 world champions he guided under his tutelage including Thomas Hearns and Lennox Lewis, Steward was even training the reigning heavyweight champion of the world, Wladimir Klitschko, until his passing away. He sported an impeccable record of 34-2-1 in Heavyweight championship fights, and was inducted into the both of boxing’s halls of fame.
It’s rare that a trainer as iconic as Steward, who was training at times several elite fighters, would still make time and train kids coming up in the amateurs. Ask anybody who knew Emanuel Steward, they’d say with no strain, that’s just the man he was. He didn’t just teach kids to defend themselves either, which is detrimental in the hostile streets of Detroit, this is where Steward had migrated to with his mother at age 12 after living in Chicago. He also did charity work for the community of Detroit and attempted to take troubled youth and push them in a direction towards securing a good education.
Detroit would become the location of Steward’s famed Kronk Gym.Many of Steward’s world champions have stated that Steward’s gym is a different breed apart from other boxing gyms. Legend has it, that similar to the old Philadelphia gyms, the sparring sessions themselves seemed more like actual prize fights and that the competitiveness added an edge and boost to the fighters there.
It’s time for the personal reflection part now, and no I didn’t know Emanuel Steward personally. I did however have the pleasure since 2005,when I was age 14, of meeting him several times and each encounter left me very fond of him. I had already admired his knowledge of the sport and the incredible duality in which he could look and sound like your sweet ole grandpa telling you what’s going on during the fight while doing his commentating on HBO. With one of the warmest smiles television has ever seen.
Then, when the lights went on and it was showtime for Steward and he was the man in the corner, you would think he had an evil twin if you ever viewed the verbal assault he launched at Lennox Lewis in between rounds during Lewis’ matchup with Mike Tyson in 2001. It was perfect, Steward seemed to truly know there was always a time and a place. When doing his commentating, after hearing an irate trainer screaming in disappointment at his fighter, Steward would chime in sounding very gentlemanlike and would concur with said trainer. He was no hypocrite, the transformation was something to behold, the sweet old Emanuel Steward would turn into something of a realistic version of Micky from Rocky.
I would be honest with whomever is reading if Mr.Steward had ever treated me as a lower human being, I wouldn’t lie and glorify the man just to write an article. There have been fighters for example that I’ve looked up to half of my life, and yes they blew me off, on more than one occasion, but that wasn’t Emanuel Steward, and I was lucky enough to have met him over twenty times in a seven year span. For those of you who had wished to have met him, what you saw on screen is what you get. The incredible enthusiasm for the sport, which was astonishing when you think of the fact that Steward had been in boxing for over four decades, was always there. Whenever I’d see him walking through or hurrying through the MGM or Mandalay Bay lobbies in Las Vegas, he’d always stop and take pictures even if it was obvious he really was in a hurry to get to his work, briefcase in hand and all. Not just that, but fans, including myself as I was younger, would indulge in asking Steward his opinion on upcoming bouts and topics within the sport, and Steward would always give them a sincere answer. Even if he had to say it real fast because of his schedules.
Most famously I remember seeing him following Floyd Mayweather’s knockout of Victor Ortiz in September of 2011, speaking to several fans minutes after the fight in the crowded lobby right outside of the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Everyone was asking him if what they had just seen was legal, as Floyd had just knocked out Victor Ortiz amidst a third apology being made by Ortiz as referee Joe Cortez had already signaled the bout had resumed. Steward was explaining in his calm manner that “Floyd was really just angry. It was more of a OK, you want to head butt me? Well then……” And right as Steward said that he exclaimed “BANG!” And with god as my witness the 67 year old Emanuel Steward threw a left hook that would have opened up Joe Frazier’s eyes. The fans surrounding Steward loved it and joked about how he should be the one in the ring. Steward wasn’t trying to be charismatic, his genuine, always there, enthusiasm spontaneously created that moment.
He made those people happy, the same way he made a pesky kid in me happy when I made him late to a meeting in 2006 for the Fernando Vargas-Shane Mosley grudge match. I had snuck backstage and ran into Emanuel, I asked him about the fight, who he thought was going to be the victor, and that enthusiasm made him late. My question got his passionate juices flowing for the sport. After a while I realized it was hard for Mr.Steward to say no to his fans, so I’d watch from afar and see other fans have their happy moments with him. Because, it’s special when you idolize somebody to a degree, and then when you meet them they live up to or exceed expectations.
So, when Emanuel Steward died last October, I cried like when I found out Diego Corrales died in 2007. Friends and family of mine who by virtue of me being a boxing nut knew of Emanuel Steward, and they too were disheartened when hearing the bad news. Everything is subjective, but Emanuel Steward was universally recognized as being a class act. To his family and friends, this site’s condolences go out to you. To Emanuel Steward, resting in the afterlife, thank you for all the warm memories you gave me to grew up with, on and off screen. For how you treated me, and everyone else like me wishing to have your time, I admire and respect you so much, and always will. Emanuel Steward’s legacy will live on and never be forgotten by this writer or publication.
R.I.P. EMANUEL STEWARD, JULY 7TH, 1944- OCTOBER 25TH, 2012.