Emanuel Steward: A Boxing Immortal
A titan has left us. Yesterday, the sport suffered a devastating loss with the passing of Emanuel Steward. For over 30 years, Emanuel Steward had been one of the leading and nationally recognized figures of the boxing community. And for even longer, Steward has been one of the positive forces in his Detroit, instilling discipline and self-respect in thousands of young men through the world-famous Kronk Gym. Steward’s career covered every aspect of what could possibly make a trainer great. He had a mastering of fundamentals (his emphasis on the jab as the building blocks of all offense), the ability to improvise strategies mid-fight, building up a solid fighter from scratch and refining the strengths of an existing one.
The greatest example of Steward’s ability to build a great champion is his prized Hall of Fame pupil, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns. Initially a tall, gangly kid when he became under Steward in the early 70s, Hearns would become one of the sport’s most feared punchers and popular fighters of the 1980s. In addition, Hearns broke new ground over the course of his 20-plus years in the ring by being the first fighter to win titles in five different weight classes.
Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko stand tall as Steward’s most remarkable examples of fighters “reborn” under his tutelage. After both suffered embarrassing, early round KO defeats, Steward was tasked with maximizing their potential by refining their skill sets and minimizing glaring flaws. The results are in the numbers and performances — Lennox Lewis would finish his career the dominant heavyweight of his era, going 13-1-1 in title fights while Wladimir Klitschko, today’s universal consensus for the division’s best fighter, has gone 14-1 in championship fights under Steward’s direction.
Steward was known for his easygoing, mild-mannered attitude. However, the quickest way to get on his bad side was to be a fighter not performing on the big stage after months spent in training. No fighter, no matter elite, was above a good tongue-lashing. The two clearest examples come below from Wladimir Klitschko and Jermain Taylor.
The other way to get Steward hype? Put on an amazing fight. Watch him completely lose his mind in the final minute of round 12 in this underrated classic from James Toney and Vassily Jirov.
From the accomplished fighters he’s trained to the classic fights he called, Emanuel Steward’s boxing legacy will remain strong and vibrant for many years to come. Rest in peace, Manny.
HBO will air a special tribute this coming Saturday (October 27) on their “Boxing After Dark” telecast.