Final bell rung for boxing iconic trainer
By Leland Stein III
DETROIT - Well, no more dog walks together or eating that great barbeque. The final 10-count bell has been rung at Greater Grace and my friend, and more importantly, a friend to thousands has been laid to rest.
Emanuel Steward a certified Detroit and international icon has gone home. The humble founder of Detroit Kronk Boxing Team, an HBO Boxing commentator and Hall of Fame trainer, probably would have blushed if he could have seen the spectacular celebration given to him by the multitudes of pugilist, media peers and admirers.
Men and women from all over the world found their way to Detroit to honor a man that only wanted to help others, the only way he knew how. Get them in the gym and in the process sneak some life lessons to them that more times than not stuck.
I understood the depth and breadth of Steward’s impact in the Sweet Science, but I was even surprised to see the overwhelming inclusion of individuals that he has cajoled.
In all our dog walks and general conversations he never bragged about the company he kept and experienced.
He just would have been happy to know that Mayor Dave Bing, Aretha Franklin, Judge Mathis, Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, Bob Arum and Jim Lampley were there to celebrate his noteworthy life.
But he would have been impressed with the pugilist that came to acknowledge how he turned good athletes into champions.
Some of those champions in attendance were Sugar Ray Leonard, Hilmer Kenty, Milton McCrory, Lennox Lewis, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, Thomas Hearns, Michael Moorer, Evander Holyfield, Iran Barkley, Jimmy Paul and Roy Jones, just to name a few, were all there and spoke of the legendary memories that Steward has left us all with.
Franklin, the Queen of Soul, stood in the church pew and blasted out a special ad-lib song that was generated just for Steward.
"Emanuel flew away," Franklin sang, as she started to improvise and the applause grew and tears started to well in my eyes. "Emanuel Steward was a good man! Yes, he was. He was a champion . . . Oh, yes, he was. You have to be, you've got to be, a champion to train one . . . Oh, yes, you do."
Representing Steward’s HBO family was Lampley. He talked about their special bond. “I can truly say that Emanuel was my best friend,” he exclaimed, “but I’m sure all of you here and many more across the world can say the same thing. If there was any man that lived up the Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s dictum it was Emanuel. He judged people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin; he was truly color blind.”
Breaking me down even further was Hearns, who Steward took off the streets and turn into a legendary multiple champion.
Soaking in tears, Hearns shared: “This is hard for me. I said this morning that I would be alright. I tried to make Emanuel proud of me. He was a very special man in my life. I wouldn't be the man I am today without Emanuel Steward in my life. He was more than a trainer to me -- he was like a dad. He taught me things, and I saw my life change.”
Wladimir, who flew in from Germany said: “We have lost a friend, but Manny Steward lives in the hearts of all of us. He had a great gift from God. I will carry on all my life what he taught me. He was a great mentor.”
"I had the opportunity to meet Emanuel about 40 years ago," Bing said during an uplifting but heart-wrenching memorial service. "We had great respect for each other, and I have always looked upon him as a friend. He represented his family and the city of Detroit with dignity. He always made me very proud to know him.”
Leonard called Steward a trainer of life. “He saved the lives of kids out there by putting them in a sweaty gym,” he recalled.
Said Holyfield: “Nobody ever lost when they did what Emanuel Steward told them to do in the ring.” Lewis echoed the sentiments of many: “Emanuel was there for my major fights -- I wish I was there for his. He is the greatest trainer that ever lived. We can't forget his contribution to the sport of boxing. I can only rejoice in his memory."
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @LelandSteinIII
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