Eight Years Gone But Never Forgotten: Emanuel Steward

Whenever a boxing pundit, expert, historian, or just plain fan attempts to compile a list of the greatest-ever boxing trainers, the name Emanuel Steward is always, always near the very top of such a list – if not at THE top.

There is no doubt about it, Emanuel was a superb trainer/coach/corner-man. It’s been eight years since the passing of The Kronk guru, with Emanuel leaving us, way too soon, when aged 68, on this day back in 2012.

Emanuel’s legacy lives on, and his teachings have been, and will continue to be, passed down. Jonathon Banks followed in Emanuel’s feet, while today, Sugar Hill is keeping the Kronk legacy strong.

Emanuel, a good boxer in his own right – winning the 1963 National Golden Gloves as a bantamweight but declining to go pro; instead of becoming an electrician – built The Kronk Gym from the ground up.

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Hilmer Kenty was Emanuel’s first world champion, before a literal conveyor belt of champions, each wearing the classic gold shorts with pride, served to enhance the reputation of the gym and the trainer they represented.

Thomas Hearns, Milton McCrory, Dennis Andries, Jimmy Paul, Caveman Lee, Lennox Lewis, Michael Moorer, Gerald McClellan……. and so many more. They all wore the gold attire, and they all shone brightly under the tutelage of Steward. And Emanuel had less famous but equally talented fighters, these men also becoming champions.

Leonzer Barber, who reigned as WBO light-heavyweight champion in the mid-1990s, is one such champion. Recently, Leonzer was kind enough to recall some of his time at Kronk for this writer. The so-called “Krong gym wars” are the stuff of legend, and Barber was right there in the middle of that furnace-like basement, fighting for survival in a battle of the strongest:

“Oh, I tell you, I sparred so many tough fighters at Kronk during my time,” Barber said when looking back. “These were great, great fighters, yet not all of them made it big. Some of them never made it as big, big names.

I sparred guys like Leon Spinks, Tommy Hearns, Gerald McClellan, Dennis Andries, Duane Thomas, so so many other fighters. It was tough. I remember, every Monday, I would have to be down there, and I knew I had to be on my game.

I couldn’t ever let anything slip. So over the weekend, my rest period, I wasn’t gonna eat pizza, eat stuff I liked. I couldn’t drink what I wanted because I would not run the risk of being off my game and being embarrassed – certainly not in front of Emanuel.

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“It was the same regimen for all us Kronk fighters. We had to live the life. And when we worked, we all made each other suffer! Andries, he was one of the toughest guys. I’d say he was one of the best fighters to have come out of the UK.

Emanuel did a lot for all of us. For me, though he wasn’t at all my big fights – working as he was with a number of other fighters at the time – I know I learned a whole lot from him. I wore those gold shorts with pride!”

Barber, like the rest of us, will never forget the great Emanuel Steward.