By Jake Donovan
Barely a day elapsed from the time of Emanuel Steward’s passing when a considerable piece of his legacy was already being stripped away.
“I saw a picture of the Kronk Gym, which has been destroyed. It made me really sad to see what happened,” noted Wladimir Klitschko, who was away in training camp for this weekend’s fight against Marius Wach at the time of Steward’s passing late last month. “Kronk Gym has existed for a long time and it will continue to exist. I will do my dedication to that.”
Diane Steward-Jones, Steward’s sister and the family spokesperson, ordered the removal of all items from the historic Kronk Gym on October 26, one day after Steward passed away at age 68. Most notable among the work done was the absence of the legendary Kronk Gym sign from outside the Detroit facility.
Steward-Jones insisted that her whimsical decision was made “to safeguard the legacy” of her brother and ensure that the valuables didn’t disappear from “people in the gym, scavengers, who would try to take everything out of my brother’s gym.”
Regardless of where anyone stands on the subject, what’s not subject to debate is the sad sight of a vacant lot that now exists in place of the gym’s second home. Its original location was shut down in 2006 due to city budget cuts, before being relocated to the Warren Street site.
Chief among the present Kronk team is Klitschko, who has taken it upon himself to preserve the gym’s legacy. While the heavyweight king can handle himself in the ring, he is pleased to know that he can count on mass support for this particular item.
“Fortunately there are a lot of people in Detroit – a lot of boxers as well – who have worked under Emanuel Steward. I’m taking responsibility, but I am more than sure that all of us are united in our strategy of preserving the spirit of Emanuel Steward in Kronk Gym.
“He has taken care of a lot of people in boxing, protecting them from drugs, crime and everything else. Whoever is the one to run it after Emanuel is something we will think about after the November 10 fight. I’m more than confident that all of the fighters are on the same page as me.”
Leading Klitschko’s corner for his bout – which airs live on EPIX and online at EpixHD.com (4:30PM ET/1:30PM PT) – will be stable mate Johnathon Banks, a longtime Steward protégé born and raised in Detrot. An aspiring heavyweight contender, Banks pulls double duty as a trainer one week before his own fight – a showdown with unbeaten Seth Mitchell next Saturday on HBO.
Banks has two shots at preserving the legacy of a man who served as his father figure – one as Klitschko’s trainer this weekend and then again in a hoped-for upset against Mitchell. After that, his plan to join Klitschko at the forefront of Kronk restoration, if only to remove the horrible picture in his mind of the place he’s called home for as long as he’s been a fighter.
“You are talking about a gym – the name alone is a part of my upbringing going back to when I was an amateur fighter,” Banks explains. “Seeing the gym as it is now, from the outside and the inside it’s very hard to look at. As Wladimir said, all of the Kronk Fighters that trained under Emanuel Steward are united in keeping that legacy going as he would (want).”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Emanuel Steward , Wladimir Klitschko , Johnathon Banks