Emanuel Steward, the Hall of Fame trainer who made the Kronk Gym famous, was celebrated by boxing legends and Motown great Aretha Franklin at a memorial service Tuesday in Detroit.
Steward, 68, died last month of diverticulosis, which is a digestive disease found in the large intestine. He also had colon cancer.
The family of Steward took their time planning the star-studded memorial.
Some of the champions he had trained that were in attendance incuded Thomas Hearns, Lennox, Lewis, Vladimir Klitschko and Evander Holyfield. Sugar Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr. — who competed against Steward’s fighters — paid their respects.
“What a spectacular turnout of support,” HBO Sports commentator Jim Lampley said. “Over here, you have a section that I would call the Hall of Fame section. You would have to go to Canastota (N.Y.) in midsummer to the Hall of Fame to see anything even remotely approaching this group.”
Franklin, the Queen of Soul, headlined the memorial service by singing her rendition of “I’ll Fly Away” in front of the audience at Greater Grace Temple. She has been a longtime friend of Steward and so attending the service was important to her
“He had a million-dollar smile you couldn’t deny,” Franklin told The Associated Press from her front-row seat. “I’m so glad he made the Kronk Gym what it was, helping countless young boys become men and many amateurs become champions.”
Since the death of Steward, his family has shutdown Kronk Gym, but has intentions of possibly reopening the gym.
“We closed it after he passed, but we’re going to restructure it and we want it done correctly,” Sylvia Steward-Williams told The AP. “We want to get a good foundation, like it was in the beginning, and build it back up.”
One of the young men that Steward helped the most was Hearns, who was first man to win titles in four divisions. He took the death especially hard. He was so overwhelmed with emotion, when he stepped up to the pulpit he had to step back, compose himself and wipe the tears off his cheeks.
“If it wasn’t for Emanuel Steward, it would be very difficult to be where I am today,” Hearns said. “He wasn’t just a trainer to me, he was like a dad.”
Klitschko said, “Emanuel Steward lives in the hearts of each of us,” he said. “Not just the people present in this room — the people around the world.”