The term ‘icon’ is tossed around far too freely in modern culture. Twitter is especially bad–any C list celebrity or past their prime musician who dies is hysterically branded an ‘icon’ or a ‘legend’. That being said, boxing lost an icon and a legend today–Emmanuel Steward, Hall of Fame trainer and more recently known for his commentary work alongside Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant on HBO Championship Boxing, has died at age 68.
Steward had been sick for the past month, hospitalized with what was described as diverticulitis. This is a stomach disorder perhaps best known in recent years for derailing the career and almost ending the life of former UFC and WWE heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. As of press time there has been no confirmation of his death from the Steward family–in fact, a representative of his family has denied reports that he has passed way. Unfortunately, a number of respected sources including close friends of Steward–along with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, whom he trained–has indicated that he has died.
Steward first came to prominence at Detroit’s Kronk Gym where he trained a number of excellent fighters including Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty and Milton McCrory. Hearns was probably the fighter that gained him worldwide fame within the business and he turned the lanky and tall ‘Motor City Cobra’ into one of the most feared punchers in the welterweight division. In recent years he worked with many fighters and champions but he did his best work with taller fighters like Hearns. Better, perhaps, than any trainer in the history of the sport Steward taught tall fighters to use their height as a formidable weapon. He took the aforementioned Wlad Klitschko from a flawed but physically imposing fighter that most considered ‘soft’ and made him arguably the best heavyweight in the world. He worked the same transformation with Lennox Lewis, who he joined forces with after Lewis’ loss to Oliver McCall. Lewis would learn to better leverage his 6’5″ frame and physical strength and went on to become the linear and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Wladimir Klitschko released the following statement:
“Boxing has suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Emanuel Steward.”
No argument there. More details about Steward’s life and his passing will be available over the next 24 hours.
NOTE: Steward’s family earlier today reiterated that his death has been reported in error while other respected boxing writers and VIPs have suggested otherwise. Within the past hour his family has confirmed his death.