Approximately 40 years ago, I wrote an outline for a movie. 20th Century Fox optioned it. It was the story of a friend of mine named Emanuel Steward. He died yesterday. His beginning was humble. Yet, he rose to greatness in his chosen field.
"Manny" was a trainer, manager and promoter, but most of all he was a magician in the ring and a humanitarian outside. During his career he was in the corners of more than 40 world champions in every weight class. He also became one of HBO's top color analysts.
It's funny because when I first put him behind the microphone he would stammer and stutter. However, like anything he did, he made himself world-class.
But I am getting ahead of myself. When I learned of "Manny's passing, I called my friend Prentiss Byrd. For much of the Roller Coaster Ride, he had been in tandem with Emanuel. Together, they worked out of the Kronk Gymnasium located in the toughest part of Detroit's toughest Ghetto. We talked at length.
The Kronk was Detroit's oldest Recreation Center (1902). It had no Air Conditioning in the summer and was without heat in the winter. He convinced the city to let them use the building where he would teach street kids to Box.
Tough kids from broken and abusive homes, kids who had been living on the street, involved in the drug trade and worse, many with criminal records flocked to the Kronk as Emanuel's reputation built. He survived on handouts, donations of equipment, clothing and food.
Struggling to make ends meet in the early days, while building the Kronk. He worked as a pole climber for the Detroit Electric Company. On more than one occasion, he came close to dying when he fell during ice storms from his pole perch. All the while, taking care of his daughters and reaching into his own pocket to help put many young men on the road to Boxing success good citizenship.
At the Kronk they came to him in all sizes. There he using the natural gifts that they had, he created a formidable Boxing team, first in the amateurs, then the pros.
At one point, a lost lanky 10 year old with 9 siblings, came to him. When the youngster arrived, Emanuel was already starting to enjoy success. The kid wanted to learn and followed Emanuel everywhere. He was a sponge.
Along the way "Manny" produced his first World Champion in 1980 when Hilmer Kinty won the lightweight title. However, that 10 year old became 7 time World Champion Thomas Hearns.
Tommy's first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard catapulted the name Emanuel Steward into the eyes of the Sports Public. Quietly out of the Kronk, he had produced over 2-dozen World Champions and 6 Olympic Champions. The Kronk also produced lawyers, doctors. Civic leaders and captains of industry. They all he been tutored by Emanuel.
My once large world of friends from within the Boxing Fraternity is rapidly diminishing. In this year alone, I saw the passing of Burt Sugar, Angelo Dundee and now, Emanuel.
To me, I recognize "Manny's" contribution to the sport was huge. How as a humanitarian, he was without peer in the sports community.