Emanuel Steward's Legacy: The Kronk Gym Faces Uncertain Future

Kevin McRae@@McRaeWritesFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2012

Emanuel Steward turned the Kronk Gym into a safe haven for youth.
Emanuel Steward turned the Kronk Gym into a safe haven for youth.Steve Grayson/Getty Images

For many young men and women in Detroit, the Kronk Gym came to symbolize hope. A hope for a better life and a chance to get off the streets.

This was the mission of the gym, and the man who for decades defined it —the late legendary boxing trainer Emanuel Steward.

With Steward's passing earlier this week at the age of 68, the future of Kronk is very much in doubt, and thus so is the future of all those who came to rely on it.

You see, at Kronk, boxing was only a part of the mission.

Sure, it was a big part and produced several notable fighters and world champions, including Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns.

But for Emanuel Steward, boxing was just an outlet and a chance to provide young men and women the possibility of improving their lives.

There are thousands of stories of young people coming to the gym and not just getting training in boxing, but getting training in life and often meals and housing. This is the part of the story that few outside Detroit know. 

But it's the true legacy of a man who will always be known for his accomplishments in the ring, but whose true greatness lay in his service to his community. 

At Kronk, nobody was ever turned away. And reports that since Steward's passing the gym has been closed and even vandalized are disturbing. 

The Kronk sign has been taken down from the facility, which was forced to move to a smaller location in 2006.

Even worse are stories that people have been looting the facility, stealing photos and other boxing memorabilia that encompassed both Steward and Kronk's legacy.

It is difficult to see how the facility, which survived on its shoestrings literally through the sheer will of Emanuel Steward, will continue to operate. 

Obviously nobody will be able to fill the void that has been left, but hopefully something can be done to salvage the Kronk Gym. 

It is, after all, the single most important piece of the legacy of a man who embodied the word "hero" for so many young people—a man who gave so much of himself so that others wouldn't have to go through a life on the streets as he had.

Nobody will ever be able to replace Emanuel Steward. But here's hoping someone steps up and ensures that the Kronk Gym will continue its mission of serving the youth of Detroit.

If not, the city will have lost much more than an icon.