By Chris Robinson
The boxing world was hit with shattering news on Thursday when it was first rumored and later confirmed that Hall of fame trainer Emanuel Steward had passed away at the age of 68.
Originally from Bottom Creek, West Virginia, Steward would relocate to Detroit, Michigan by the age of 12. After a successful amateur career, Steward would try out his training skills inside of the now famous Kronk Gym.
Steward’s contributions to the sport are legendary, including his work with former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, five-division champion
Thomas Hearns, unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, and countless others. In 2001, Steward joined HBO as a ringside analyst and received much acclaim for his commentary.
Shortly after hearing the news of Steward’s passing, I caught up with his HBO colleague Larry Merchant, who was both somber and reflective as he bid his friend goodbye.
“It’s a bad day for everybody,” Merchant claimed. “It’s a sad day for me personally.”
What Merchant, as well as several boxing insiders, clearly recalls about Steward was just how generous he was with his time to nearly anyone.
“You know, he was like a guy on top of the game who had time for everybody and treated everybody the same,” said Merchant.
Asked for any specifics memories that he had of Steward, Merchant flashed back only a year to an HBO-televised triple header in St. Louis, Missouri headlined by Devon Alexander’s split-decision victory over Lucas Matthysse. But Steward wasn’t next to Merchant ringside calling the action, as he instead was working the corner of one of the undercard participants as IBF junior middleweight champion Cornelius “K9” Bundrage faced off with Sechew Powell for a second time.
Steward had been with Klitschko in Austria training for his bout with David Haye and Merchant was impressed with how he took time out of his schedule to make such importance of an off-television affair.
“He comes in for two days, flies all the all the way to St. Louis to be with this kid, and treats it as if it was Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson,” stated Merchant. “And really was emotional in the corner and really drove the kid home for an important victory. And that was Emanuel. And then he got back in a plane and went back to Austria.”
Steward accepted his role of a trainer as well as a mentor to both Klitschko and Lewis after they had suffered devastating losses and his rebuilding of their careers left an impression on Merchant.
“I think he showed that, with [Lennox] Lewis and with Wladimir Klitschko, how he got them to make the most of a combination of their talents and their temperament to be as good as they could be,” Merchant added.
When asked what it was like to call a fight with Steward, I instantly sensed just how much of a deep respect he had and still has for the revered coach.
“It was fun, it was educational,” Merchant stated candidly. “He certainly knew a lot of the finer points in boxing better than I did and we enjoyed each other’s companies and back and forthing and not always agreeing but always respectful.
“For me, there could be certain issues that could come up and I would say ‘I’m going to let Emanuel handle it, because he has the most credibility of anybody sitting here ringside,’” Merchant continued. “If he says a guy is good or a guy is this or that, that’s coming from Emanuel Steward. And there are certain things that would be better coming from him than someone else.
“He spoke with credibility and authority and fairness,” Merchant said, giving his closing thoughts.
Let me join Merchant and others by saying “Rest in peace Emanuel”. You will surely be missed