SugarHill Steward Steps Into The Spotlight
By: Sean Crose
It’s hard to imagine coming up with a top five list of the greatest trainers in boxing history and not having Emanuel Steward appear among that handful of elites. So prominent was the Detroit based master that his passing in 2012 shook the fight world. Top names ranging from Thomas Hearns to Lennox Lewis to Wladimir Klitschko all turned to Steward for guidance, and that’s just to name a few. Even though Steward is gone, his name lives on, not only in boxing history, but in the form of one SugarHill Steward, Emanuel’s nephew, now himself a trainer to be reckoned with.
As talkSport points out, the latest Steward of note was named Javan “Sugar” Hill until quite recently. “He changed his name officially last year,” the outlet reports, “explaining that Manny was a father to him.” Steward’s life has recently changed in other ways, as well. For he is currently training Tyson Fury, the individual many claim is the lineal heavyweight champion of the world – the man who beat the man who beat the man, tracing all the way back to at least the reign of John L Sullivan in the 1880s-1890’s. What’s more, Fury’s rematch with ferocious WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder this weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in one of the most anticipated bouts in years.
During a recent conference call to promote Saturday’s match, I asked Fury about teaming up with the younger Steward . The colorful Englishman was effusive in his praise: “That’s one of the best decisions I ever made,” he said of partnering with Steward. Although Ben Davis led Fury to a draw in his famous first match with Wilder, Fury was looking for something different the second time around. “I had a good defensive coach in Ben Davis,” Fury explained. “I needed an aggressive trainer.”
Having worked at Emanuel Steward’s famed Kronk gym previously, SugarHill was someone the bombastic heavyweight was already familiar with. “I knew we got on well,” Fury said of his relationship with the man who would become his trainer. “That’s why I brought him in.” Fury is clearly impressed with the work Steward has done with him, so impressed that he claims he’s going to knock Wilder out this weekend. That may be all talk, of course, but it’s worth keeping in mind the Steward family is known for giving the world fighters who can take down walls with their fists.
And, while Emanuel Steward will always be an inspiration to his nephew, Fury himself makes it clear he was impacted by the man, as well. “It wasn’t just physical where he was great,” Fury told talkSport of the late trainer. “He was great at communicating with a fighter and talking over fights.”
SugarHill certainly has big shoes to fill – not that he isn’t rising to the occasion.
Famed Kronk Gym Destroyed By Fire
By: Sean Crose
The abandoned building which once housed the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit has been destroyed by a weekend fire. Detroit police suspect that the incident may have been the result of arson. The building, which was known as the Kronk Recreation Center, once contained one of the most iconic gyms in boxing within its basement. From that gym’s confides, stars such as Thomas Hearns emerged. “What this building brought for me was a chance at life,” Hearns told the Detroit Free Press from the site of the blaze. “I got a chance to become somebody out of this building right here.” A call came into authorities Saturday night reporting the fire. Detroit’s fire department was subsequently unable to save the structure.
The Kronk Gym was the creation of Emanuel Steward, one of the fight game’s great trainers. Known as the Godfather of Detroit’s boxing scene, Steward not only helped give the world Hearns, but also trained such notables as Wladimir Klitschko, Andy Lee, Mike McCallum and Lennox Lewis. An electrician by trade, Steward started training amateur fighters in the recreation center’s basement in his spare time. By the time Hearns turned pro in the late 70s, however, it was clear Steward had found his true calling as a top tier trainer.
Steward went on to train literally dozens of champions in his basement gym. Kronk fighters could usually be noted for the fact that they wore the gym’s famous gold trunks. Steward passed at the age of 68 in 2012, yet by then the gym had closed been closed since 2006 (a new Kronk boxing facility was created in a former church). Still, Steward’s daughter, Sylvia Steward-Williams, told The Detroit News that her “father’s heart lived in that gym.” Ms. Steward-Williams added that “he’d still pay for the (property) even after we moved out because his heart was so much with those kids who wanted that space to train.”
According to the Detroit Fire Department, flames were already emerging from the second floor when help arrived. “We surrounded the building,” Deputy Chief Dave Fornell told The Detroit News, “and then the roof collapsed.” One firefighter was reportedly injured in the blaze and taken to be treated for an ankle injury. Thankfully, no one was reported severely hurt or killed. Firemen tried to fight the blaze for around four hours. “We are listing the fire as suspicious,” Fornell stated, “and it is an ongoing investigation.”
“It’s just sad,” stated Hearns, “to see that people didn’t value this place like we did.”