A few weeks ago, I wrote an entry that emphasized the importance of amateur boxing (see here). Within that article, I shared a classic amateur bout between Thomas Hearns and Aaron Pryor. That 1976 National Golden Gloves championship match is one of the best amateur fights you’ll ever see. To no surprise, one of the trainers involved in that bout was the legendary Emanuel Steward. Before passing away in 2012, Manny Steward developed several amateur and professional champions.
Godfather of Detroit Boxing
Manny Steward was known by many as the Godfather of Detroit boxing. His small Kronk gym became home to numerous world champions. It is where Steward first gained fame through his work with Thomas Hearns. More recently, Steward was known for his tremendous work with heavyweight champions Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
Yet, no matter how much recognition Steward gained, he remained as humble and down to earth as anyone you will ever meet. The brief video below highlights these qualities, as well as his endless devotion to the sport (amateur boxing in particular).
Box, Box, Box
Back in 2008, I was fortunate to be in training camp with Emanuel Steward for a few weeks while Wladimir Klitschko prepared for his bout with Sultan Ibragimov. It was a tremendous opportunity that I will never forget. Manny was as real as they come. He was obviously extremely knowledgeable, but there wasn’t even the slightest sign of ego. You would have never guessed that this man was known around the world. He acted like he was just another guy in the gym.
As for Steward’s approach to training, he was a huge advocate of getting fighters to spend more time boxing. One of the biggest changes he made to Klitschko when he began training him was to get him boxing more.
If you trained under Manny Steward, you were going to spend a lot of time inside the ring. His approach was quite simple. Everything was secondary to lacing up the gloves and boxing.
For instance, in one past interview, Manny stated the following,
“If there is one abiding theme in the gym, it’s the withering work in the ring. Those not fit do not survive.”
He continued by saying,
“I believe in a lot of boxing. You can train and work on the speed bag and heavy bag, but when you get in the ring with another fighter, it’s a different story.”
Manny’s philosophy was perhaps best summarized with this single line,
“Sparring a lot is very, very good.”
Although the quotes above came from 1981, I can testify to the fact that Manny’s approach did not change. While we were in camp, the emphasis on boxing was as apparent as ever. Sparring was the most important aspect of camp. After sparring, there was work on the heavy bag, speed bag, and plenty of calisthenics. On non-sparring days, there was mitt work and then more of the same.
The approach was simple yet highly effective. The sport itself was the primary emphasis (along with excellent coaching of course). As for results, Emanuel Steward’s track record speaks for itself. Throughout his career, he continued to develop amateur and professional champions.
In summary, it is safe to say that we can all learn from Emanuel Steward’s wisdom and experience. And I say that not just in regards to his boxing knowledge, but also the way that he carried himself and treated others. If there was ever someone who stayed the same despite gaining fame, that person was Emanuel Steward.
Although he passed away too soon, the boxing world can at least continue to recognize and spread the knowledge that he so openly shared.