Thursday, October 25, 2012

Emanuel Steward

Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, a genius in the ring and a goodwill ambassador for boxing outside of it, died Thursday at 68 in a Chicago hospital following a lengthy illness.

A 1996 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, Steward was best known as the trainer who developed Thomas Hearns into one of the most fearsome fighters of his generation.

Considered the greatest trainer of his era, he worked with dozens of world champions and was instrumental in the success of not only Hearns, but elite fighters like heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, ex-heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya and many others.

In addition to being a great trainer, he developed a reputation as an outstanding analyst on HBO. Steward's excitement about a good fight was palpable – boxing pundits will recall his famous exclamation at the end of the ninth round of the May 18, 2002, fight between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, "This should be the Round of the Century!"

Though he trained fighters of all sizes and styles, ultimately he became something of a heavyweight expert. He took over as Lewis' lead trainer in 1995, not long after Lewis was knocked out by Oliver McCall. Steward had coincidentally trained McCall to the win over Lewis on Sept. 24, 1994.

Under Steward's tutelage, Lewis went 16-1-1, with wins over Mike Tyson, Vitali Klitschko and Evander Holyfield, among others. In 2004, he took over as Wladimir Klitschko's trainer and Klitschko was promptly beaten by Lamon Brewster in a massive upset.

But, just as he had done with Lewis, he slowly turned Klitschko around and helped him become the top heavyweight in the world. Klitschko won 16 fights in a row under Steward.

Steward also got heavyweight title wins with McCall and Evander Holyfield, which put his record as the trainer of heavyweights at 34-2-1.

In a sport marked by infighting and bitter personal conflicts, Steward had no known enemies and was almost universally revered in the industry. He frequently reached into his own pocket to help the fighters he trained, and was always a friendly, accessible expert for journalists looking for help on a story.

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