It has been ten years since the death of the famous boxing trainer Emanuel Steward. You can fill the Boxing Hall of Fame with the fighters that the West Virginia legend has mentored over the years. Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Prince Naseem Hamed, Miguel Cotto, Tommy Hearns and Evander Holyfield are a few examples. This titanic pool of talent has barely rubbed off on the warriors Steward has worked with.
But one fighter showed Steward’s ability to improve boxers more than any other. Wladimir Klitschko was a heavyweight prospect whose ambitions were severely derailed when he sought the help of Kronk’s boss. When Emanuel died in 2012, his title was the heavyweight champion of the world. Before it was all over, Klitschko would go ten years without being beaten.
That was in the distant future though. Klitschko suffered an upset this year when he was beaten by Corrie Sanders in 2003. He won two fights before appointing Steward as his trainer. Their first fight together wouldn’t be bad. Klitschko was knocked out in the fifth round of the WBO heavyweight championship against Lamon Brewster. This is the third time that Klitschko has been inactive. Steward would never lose again.
Steward trained the biggest heavyweight in recent memory, Lennox Lewis. Under his tutelage, if you’ll pardon the pun, ‘The Lion’ built his style on defensive talent, consistent power and the best jab the heavyweight division has seen since Larry Holmes. Lewis’ rise to undisputed dominance would form the basis of the Steward/Klitschko relationship.
After the first victory against the candidates DaVarryl Williamson and Eliseo Castillo, ‘Dr Steelhammer’ is ready to test his new style on a serious challenge. Go ahead, ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’. Samuel Peter is one of the most feared men in the heavyweight division. The 24-0 power hitter collected a huge field of punches. With Mike Tyson retiring just three months before Klitschko faced Peter, many were keen to anoint the Nigerian as the next ‘Iron’ Mike.
There were times in this incredibly heavy collision where it looked like Peter would make good on this promise. The chaos of the club in the powerhouse took a toll on them, even if many of them did it behind the head of the Ukrainian. Klitschko was knocked down three times during the fight. But unlike Sanders and Brewster, or in his first loss to Ross Purity, Klitschko continues to rise. Not only that, but he boxed really well when he did that. Peter won a few fights but, at the end of 12 rounds, ‘Dr Steelhammer’ won the fight. Klitschko was awarded a unanimous decision. It will not be cracked again under Steward’s watch.
Peter continued to grow and ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ continued his reign as WBC champion. There is a belt on the line for Klitschko as well when he takes on IBF champion Chris Byrd in his next fight. The improvements in the challenge became more apparent. In 2000, Klitschko defeated his opponent by unanimous decision to win the WBO championship. In 2006, he stopped the champion in seven brutal rounds.
Klitschko 2.0 will dominate the heavyweight division for the next decade. Steward rears his head in revenge by firing Brewster. He designed a punch-like game plan to dominate WBO chairman Sultan Ibragimov in a unification bout. Wins over former champions Hasim Rahman and Ruslan Chagaev. Klitschko also corrected the mistakes they made against Peter, where he won the match with a knockout.
Perhaps the best time between Steward and Klitschko came in 2011. Klitschko gave WBA champion David Haye a heartbreaking beating. It must have tasted good considering ‘The Hayemaker’ hyped the fight by wearing a shirt that showed himself cutting Wladimir and his brother, Vitali.
It was announced in Klitschko’s 2012 show with Mariusz Wach that Steward would not be able to kill his fighters while he was recovering for colon surgery. Sadly, he will no longer be accompanying his flamboyant prodigy to the ring. Steward died at the age of 68.
But Klitschko lived as one of Steward’s wonderful gifts to boxing. Klitschko defeated Wach, along with five other opponents, before facing Tyson Fury in 2015. It was an incredible reign for one of boxing’s greatest architects. You could tell similar stories about any of the many fighters that Chief Kronk mentored and trained during his career. Fighters come to Manny when they want to take it to the next level. More often than not, Steward found them there.