Prayers for Kronk's Emanuel Steward
A group prayer will be held Sunday morning for legendary boxing figure Emanuel Steward, who founded the Kronk Boxing Team and guided it to world-wide prominence with a stable of talented fighters led by Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, a world champion in six weight classes.
Steward has been battling health issues recently, and the prayer session -- 11:15 a.m. at the Orchard Grove Community Church in Walled Lake, a suburb of Detroit -- has been called by the boxing community to give him spiritual support.
Reports are sketchy on the nature and seriousness of Steward’s illness. He's reportedly being treated in a Chicago-area hospital.
Steward, who turned 68 in July, was born in West Virginia but has lived in Detroit since he was 12. Despite his many boxing interests, which have made him an internationally known figure, he's maintained a permanent residence on Detroit’s west side.
Steward had a successful career as an amateur boxer, winning a national Golden Gloves championship in the bantamweight class in 1963. Instead of pursuing a pro career as a fighter, Steward turned to training amateur fighters and had wide success.
He stepped into the pro ranks in 1977, with a group of young fighters out of the Kronk Gym led by Hearns and the late Mickey Goodwin, a highly regarded middleweight from the Detroit suburb of Melvindale. Hearns and Goodwin fought co-main events on the first pro card featuring Kronk’s fighters in November 1977.
Steward’s team of fighters grew rapidly in popularity and size, and Kronk began piling up victories and championships and adding fans. Its first world champion was Hilmer Kenty, who won the lightweight title with a knockout victory over Ernesto Espana on March 2, 1980, in Detroit.
Hearns, Kronk’s biggest star, soon joined Kenty as a world champion. Hearns KO’d Pipino Cuevas to win the welterweight title on Aug. 2, 1980.
Hearns later had memorable bouts with greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Wilfred Benitez and Roberto Duran. Hearns’ six world championships ranged from the welterweight to cruiserweight divisions.
Steward branched out from his Detroit base, handling champions such as Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, and working as a boxing commentator for the HBO cable network.
Steward and Hearns both have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.