The news today of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward's passing at the age of 68 hit the boxing community like a sucker punch to the gut.
While Steward had been mysteriously ill for some time, few if any felt it would be enough to overcome a man who spent a life nurturing and helping young men and women overcome their own overwhelming odds.
Emanuel Steward was more than a boxing trainer in Detroit—he was an icon, and most of his truly great work came far from the gaze of the camera or television screen.
Steward moved to Detroit from West Virginia with his mother when he was just 12 years old and almost immediately fell into the city's street gang picture.
He soon began coaching at the city's Kronk Gym, after turning from gangs and having a successful amateur boxing career.
The gym became the home of countless Detroit youth and provided a safe haven from the streets and a possible path toward something better.
While Steward will be best remembered for bringing fighters such as Tommy Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko to the top of the boxing world, it is these countless unknown thousands that make up the heart of Steward's legacy.
Steward's commitment to Kronk and its mission of serving the community was so ingrained in who he was that when the city of Detroit closed it in 2006, Manny picked up and relocated the facility to a smaller site.
The Kronk Gym eventually became the Kronk Gym Foundation, which Steward started, to serve underprivileged youth in the city. Education and social services soon became as important a part of the mission as boxing.
You will find hundreds of people in Detroit today whose lives were positively impacted, or even transformed, by Emanuel Steward and his commitment to giving everyone a fair shot.
It is for this that he should be remembered.
It is the legacy of a man whose kindness, heart and determination go far beyond a boxing ring.
It is a legacy of a man who grew up on the streets and then dedicated his life to ensuring that others wouldn't have to.
It is a legacy of a man who never turned a kid away when they needed a hand, a meal or someone to give advice.
It is the legacy of a man who truly embodies the definition of a hero—and who was a hero for many teenagers in Detroit.
Today more than the boxing community mourns, the entire world mourns the loss of a truly great man. Emanuel, your legacy will live on, in the lives of thousands of kids who got a shot at a better life because of you.
While you may have been taken from us, what can never be taken is the inspiration we can take from your never-ending commitment to helping others and making a better world, one person at a time.
Rest In Peace.
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