Emanuel Steward, boxing legend, dies at the age of 68. The Kronk Gym boxing icon’s sister, Diane Steward-Jones, confirmed the news Thursday afternoon. He had been in a Chicago-area hospital for several weeks after undergoing surgery for what was termed diverticulitis.
“He has passed – he’s gone home,” his sister told the Detroit Free Press by phone. “He was in no pain, and we sang to him, as well as did the doctors present. He had loved ones around him.”
Steward-Jones said even toward the end her brother tried to recruit male nurses and other medical staff to box for him. “They loved him,” she said. “He’d tell them to lose some weight and fight for him.” She also said she was trying to stay busy by tidying up his hospital room.
“He gave it his all,” his sister said. “But he’s been called away now.”
The boxing icon nurtured and guided the likes of Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty and Milton McCrory to world titles in the 1980s at the Kronk Gym on McGraw in Detroit.
Born in Bottom Creek, W.Va., Steward at age 12 moved with his mother to Detroit, where he became a street-smart kid with a short fuse and quick fists.
In a life-changing move away from the gangs in the hood, Steward joined the Brewster Recreation Center and began an amateur boxing career, winning the 1963 Golden Gloves tournament in the bantamweight division.
With his family needing his financial support, Steward became a lineman with the city before he and his half brother James began coaching at the Kronk, a hotbed for young amateur fighters.
Steward took the Kronk and its fighters to dizzying heights, transforming a skinny Hearns into one of the most devastating punchers in the history of the ring and mentoring a gallery of supporting champs over the years, including Jimmy Paul, Duane Thomas, Dennis Andries, Steve McCrory, Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis and present-day heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko.