The fabled Kronk Gym building in Detroit, where boxing champion Thomas Hearns and others trained, has been destroyed by fire.
Deputy Fire Chief Dave Fornell told The Detroit News Sunday that the blaze at the vacant building on the city’s southwest side was reported about 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Firefighters arrived to find flames shooting from the gym’s second floor. The roof later collapsed.
Fornell says the fire is being listed as suspicious and is under investigation.
"We tried to attack it from inside but because of the danger of the roof falling in, the chief pulled the crew out and (we) fought the fire from the outside," Fornell told the Free Press. "The two blocks around the building are almost vacant, there are no neighbors. The fire was able to spread quite a bit before it was called in. It was an unfortunate part of history that was destroyed."
"It's unfortunate that we are losing these architectural gems, but also, they've been vacant years, nobody stepped up. Right now the city is working on getting street lights, lowering response times, there are a lot of priorities in the city."
Legendary boxing trainer Emanuel Steward established the Kronk program in 1971. The gym’s first professional champion, Hilmer Kenty, won the WBA title in 1978. But Hearns really put Kronk and Steward on the map, winning five titles with a 61-5-1 record as a pro.
The building closed in 2006.
Hearns was overwhelmed with emotion when advised of the fire.
“It’s just sad to see that people didn’t value this place like we did," said Hearns, 58, told the Free press. "What this building brought for me was a chance at life. I got a chance to become somebody out of this building right here. To see it like this is pitiful — it’s really pitiful."
“I hope it meant to Detroit almost as much as it meant to me. This was a safe haven for me."