It was a pugilistic parade of eloquence and raw emotion as the greatest fighters in the history of boxing gathered to say goodbye to Hall of Fame trainer and manager Emanuel Steward, who at 68-years-old (Jul. 7, 1944 - Oct. 25, 2012) succumbed to colon cancer leaving an unmatched legacy in his wake.
Thousands of fans, friends and family descended on Greater Grace Temple on Detroit's Westside to witness a home-going celebration befitting a champion.
The crowd stood motionless as a silent 10-count rang-out... echoing off the temple walls, each time the bell sounded, solemnly keeping a long time boxing tradition... the equivalent of a military 21-gun salute.
Steward’s career, as many who spoke reiterated, will never ever be matched. He was a one-of-a-kind man who trained 41 World Champions and mentored countless young men and women through the world during his life.
The founder of the famed Kronk Gym, Steward was known for guiding young men away from potential gang activity during the 70s and 80s and teaching them to lead productive ivies in and outside of the ring.
Born and raised in Detroit, I too was impacted by Steward’s incredible persona. I worked as a PR assistant for Ringside Productions in the 80s when Hilmer Kenty and Tommy Hearns first became champions.
I was struck at how Steward treated me, a kid fresh out of college, like I was a critical and important part of the team.
Judge Mathis, a native Detroiter gave an inspiring speech during the memorial, asking Mayor and basketball Hall-of-Famer, Dave Bing, to re-name Detroit's Northwest Activity Center after Steward.
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, sang a tribute a tribute to Steward, who was also a renowned boxing commentator for HBO Sports.
Jim Lampley spoke at the ceremony, calling Steward his "best friend", saying he knew hundreds of other people felt the same way.
Promoter Bob Arum, long time Steward friend, Printice Bryd, and a host of Detroit dignitaries took to the podium, but it was the array of boxing royalty, who assembled to say goodbye to Steward ,that may never be duplicated.
One-by-one, men who threw punches against the toughest men in the world showed uncommon sensitivity when describing their feelings about the man they collectively say was the greatest trainer in the history of The Sweet Science.
In what looked like a surreal casting call for a boxing reality show, the crowd cheered each man as they took turns laughing, crying and talking about the man who made them all champions.
Evander Holyfield spoke about Steward's impact on his career, while giant Ukranian World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Kitschko said Steward taught him about life.
Sugar Ray Leonard thanked Stewards family for sharing him with all of them, Michael Moorer talked about Steward making him the first southpaw heavyweight champ in history, Lennox Lewis joked about teaching his trainer how to party London style, but it was the emotional outpouring of Stewards prize former prodigy Thomas Hitman Hearns that had everyone fighting back tears.
Hearns, gasping for air with tears streaming down his face, could barely contain his emotions, as he describe Steward as a father figure.
It was a indeed a scene befitting a father and son relationship.
The Steward stories continued long after the memorial ended, as fighters hugged each other knowing they had a common bond in their relationship with a man who made them men.
Emanuel Steward will never be forgotten.