Where does one even start when trying to discuss the impact Emanuel Steward has had on boxing? There’s many points to choose from. But I think one of the best aspects of Steward was that he always remained humble. He could never understand why some people he’d run into would be shocked he was just a normal guy, sharing similar interests to the many fight fans who revered him with almost saint link respect.
It’s interesting that nowadays with fame and talent no longer making any sort of direct connection, and in fact in a lot of cases being mutually exclusive of one another, that celebrities appear to believe themselves above everyone else. The sense of entitlement is appalling and the blatant celebration of excess can be a bit hard to stomach. But Manny was above all that, even though he possessed a engimatic talent when it came to turning good fighters into great fighters.
He came up the hard way, no shortcuts were presented to him and its very likely he would have turned any of them down. He was a very talented amateur boxer and was even offered a sponsorship of sorts by a group of businessmen if he would turn pro. They offered him $100, 000 under the stipulation he move out to California to train full time. He wasn’t about to do that and leave his mother and two younger sisters behind. So instead he got a job at Detroit Edison as a electrician and decided to make his living the hard way, the way so many people have no choice but to do.
His job at Detroit Edison resulted in a bit of a layoff from the sport. But when his younger brother moved in with him and wanted to start training, Manny took him down the street to the Kronk gym. What started out as helping his brother out would blossom into a career spanning multiple decades in which he was often regarded as one of the greatest trainers of all time.
Kronk became a hotbed for first creating amateur champions and then later on professional world champions. Hilmer Kenty was his first, followed quickly by the man who his career would become intrinsically linked: Tommy Hearns. Like so many other kids that came into Kronk, Tommy was looking for a place to put his anger. Steward turned him into one of the best, his KO power absolutely astonishing.
As it turned out, there wasn’t very many stars in the sport he didn’t have some involvement with. Oft times after a disappointing loss it was Emanuel Steward you turned too. If he couldn’t get you back on track, no one was going to be able to. He was the ultimate problem solver, able to see both your strengths and weaknesses.
Through it all Manny maintained the reason he got to where he did in the game was down to two simple words: hard work. Some like to boast a natural talent or predisposition to greatness. Manny had no trouble admitting everything he earned in life was down to hard work. When he would catch kids outside his home in Detroit, taking pictures in awe of the luxury Manny would often open up the door and invite them in. When asked how he got so rich he’d always start with what he felt was the basic principle and first step towards it all: finishing high school.
There’s many a fan who will miss Steward telling stories until the early morning hours in a casino bar after a fight telecast. His love for the sport was unflinching and he loved to regale fans with tales of fight he had saw, fighters he had trained and the bizarre circus the world of boxing can sometimes be. He fought until the end, telling doctors and nurses at the Chicago area hospital in which he passed that he could turn them into boxers if they cut a little weight. That’s how Emanuel Steward should be remembered, someone who believed in people.