Emanuel Steward, whose alumni as a trainer included the boxing legends Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko has died, he was 68.
Steward, who also managed many of the fighters he trained, worked with more than two dozen champions during his decades-long career. A younger generation of boxing fans knew him as an expert analyst on HBO’s boxing telecasts.
Victoria Kirton, Steward’s executive assistant, told the Associated Press that Steward died in a Chicago hospital on Thursday afternoon. She did not disclose the cause of death.
Steward was born in West Virginia and moved at the age of 12 to Detroit. In 1963, an 18-year old Steward, fighting as a bantamweight, won the national Golden Gloves tournament. According to a biography on his website, rather than go forward as a professional he went to work for the Detroit Edison Co. and in 1971 accepted a part-time position as head coach of the boxing program at the Kronk Recreation Center.
The Kronk’s first professional champion was Hilmer Kenty, a lightweight from Columbus, Ohio, who started training there in 1978 and won the WBA title two years later.
It was Hearns who really put Kronk – and Steward – on the map. The Hitman was the first man to win titles in four divisions – he won five overall – and topped his 155-8 amateur record by going 61-5-1 with 48 knockouts as a pro.
”He brought the very, very best out of me,” Hearns once said of Steward.
The gym for years was seen as a way to keep kids out of trouble and off the streets in southwestern Detroit. In 2006, Detroit shut down the recreation center that houses the gym because of a major budget shortfall. The gym was allowed to remain open, but it put Steward in a difficult financial situation and he rented space at a gym in Dearborn so his young fighters could train.
Steward, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, also worked closely with Lewis during his title run, and current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko as recently as July. Klitschko has trained recently without Steward for his fight against Mariusz Wach next month in Germany
”His spirit is always here,” Klitschko said. ”I can hear his voice in sparring while doing things, whispering in my ear. As the famous saying goes, ‘The show must go on,’ and that’s exactly the case.”
Steward also worked since 2001 as a boxing analyst for HBO.
”Manny was a respected colleague who taught us so much not only about the sweet science but also about friendship and loyalty,” HBO Sports President Ken Hershman said. ”His energy, enthusiasm and bright smile were a constant presence. Ten bells do not seem enough to mourn his passing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.