Boxing: Former world champion Lennox Lewis ‘devastated’ at passing of legendary Emanuel Steward
LENNOX Lewis has spoken of his devastation at the death of long-time trainer Emanuel Steward.
Lewis is one of many top fighters to have had his career shaped by Steward, whose passing was last night confirmed by his sister. He was 68 and had recently undergone surgery for a stomach illness.
He trained more than 40 world champions during his illustrious career, with Lewis being one of them. He went to Steward's Kronk Gym in Detroit after losing his WBC heavyweight title to Oliver McCall in 1994, reclaimed his title in 1997 and went on to have a spell as the undisputed champion before retiring in 2004.
"I'm completely devastated by the passing of my long-time friend, mentor and trainer Emanuel "Manny" Steward," Lewis wrote on his official website.
"Manny has helped me get through some of the biggest fights in my career and I only regret that I couldn't return the favour and see him through his biggest fight.
"We've maintained a close relationship and the last time we spoke he seemed his usual upbeat self so it was very disturbing to hear about his illness and rapid decline.
"It is with a heavy heart that realisation of what I hoped were just rumours are now in fact true. Manny always told me I was the best, but the truth is, HE was the best and I'm grateful, privileged and honoured to be counted among his many historic successes."
Steward was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996 and rose to prominence as a corner man owing to his work with Detroit fighter Thomas Hearns.
Hearns, who became Steward's first professional fighter along with another Detroit native, Hilmer Kenty, in 1977, won his first world title in 1980 and went on to engage in a series of all-time classics with Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler.
"This has been a very tragic year for the boxing world, but today we've truly lost one of its crown jewels," Lewis added.
"Manny was giving, selfless, compassionate and stern. He always gave back to the community and never forgot where he came from. He was an institution unto himself and I'm proud to have had him in my corner for so many years.
"I'm extremely grateful for the time that I was given with him and he will be severely missed by all who knew and loved him. I'll miss his smile, his frank no-holds-barred truthfulness and our discussions on boxing and life. My prayers and condolences go out to his family at this very difficult time."
Steward's illness had recently forced him to relinquish his role as chief trainer for Wladimir Klitschko's upcoming world heavyweight title fight against Mariusz Wach.
"Boxing has suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Emanuel Steward," Klitschko said in a statement posted on the Klitschko brothers' official website.
"Vitali and I, along with the entire Team Klitschko, send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Emanuel's family and friends.
"It is not often that a person in any line of work gets a chance to work with a legend. Well, I was privileged enough to work with one for almost a decade.
"I will miss our time together. The long talks about boxing, the world, and life itself. Most of all I will miss our friendship."
Klitschko, who continues to be pursued by Englishman David Haye, added that he would like to achieve further success in honour of his former mentor.
"My team and I will carry on with the goals we had set while Emanuel was with us because that is exactly what Emanuel would have wanted. I know he will be with us in spirit along the way and we will accomplish these goals in his honour," he said.
"Rest in peace Emanuel. You will be greatly missed. Until we meet again my friend."
One of the scalps Steward claimed in his career was when he helped Wladimir Klitschko beat Haye in Hamburg last year.
The Ukrainian enjoyed a points victory over Haye, and the Bermondsey fighter`s own trainer, Adam Booth, said it was an honour to lose to Steward.
"He was up there with the best," he told Sky Sports News. "It`s a sad, sad day.
"He was not just a great coach, he trained fighters but also educated the boxers he worked with for decades.
"I grew up watching him and listening to him.
"No professional likes to lose but if you have to, it`s an honour to lose to Manny Steward.
"In my career, I`ve never looked across at the other corner and been intimidated, except for last year."