Saturday, October 27, 2012

Class + Greatness = Emanuel Steward


When you're looked upon as the greatest in your chosen profession; then that on its own will cement your legacy. However, when you remain humble during your tenure as the greatest and exhibit nothing but straight class throughout, well that just makes you legendary. Class + greatness = Emanuel Steward, legendary boxing trainer, who sadly passed away this week at the age of 68 after his toughest bout with a serious illness.

I say "serious illness" because there is speculation as to what exactly Steward was suffering from, but there is no speculation when it comes to Steward the man. Universally, he was beloved, respected and regarded as probably the greatest trainer of boxers in a sport where arguments and debates about greatness is commonplace. Ironically, just recently I was involved in a debate on Facebook with a few friends as to this very topic; the question was, "Who was the greatest trainer that ever lived?"

Names that are hallowed in boxing such as Angelo Dundee, Eddie Futch, Cus D'Amato, Nacho Beristain and even Freddie Roach were tossed about. While all those are legitimate contenders, I quickly threw in Emanuel Steward. That doesn't make me a genius by any stretch, just look at his resume as my argument speaks for itself. A venerable who's who list of former and current world champions, more than 30 in all, have either worked with or sought the guidance of the man known in Detroit as 'The Goldfather'.

The names are too many to list, but to name a few just to give you a glimpse of the magnitude; they include Wilfredo Benitez, Julio Cesar Chavez, Mike McCallum, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield and current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko. However, it was his list of champions from the renowned Kronk gym he built such as Gerald McLellan, Hilmer Kenty, Milton McCrory, Michael Moorer and most notably Thomas Hearns that made his name. The words champion and Steward were synonymous with one another.

That's probably because Steward was a National Golden Gloves champ in 1963 compiling an amateur record of 94-3. His interest in training amateur fighters is what put him on his path, but it was when he started working at the Kronk Community Center back in 1971 that a new era in boxing was formed. After a decade of honing his craft and working with homegrown kids out of Detroit, the '80's were littered and dominated by Kronk fighters. It was hard not to find a championship fight that didn't feature a combatant wearing gold trunks with Kronk written in red letters.

That signature look and fighting style are what made Steward the trainer of champions and in my estimation the greatest trainer that ever lived. I had the pleasure of meeting Steward once a few years back when I was DJ'ing a picnic at the home of former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes. Steward was in the Poconos at the time working with both Lennox Lewis and Prince Naseem Hamed for some upcoming title fights. It was a Sunday afternoon, so he showed up at Larry's request.

'The Champ' as I always refer Larry Holmes by was kind enough to introduce me to Steward and as I had always heard he was nothing but a cordial gentleman towards me. He was even kind enough to engage in conversation with me for about 10 minutes about music as I asked him if there was something I could play for him. To no surprise and true to his Detroit home, he asked if I could play some Motown. It was truly my pleasure and honor as class + greatness = Emanuel Steward. RIP Goldfather!

1 comment:

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