Emanuel Steward and Angelo Dundee first crossed paths as competing trainers in 1981 when their respective fighters, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, fought for the highly anticipated unified welterweight title.
Leonard rallied to score a 14th-round knockout win in a bout that introduced a golden age for the welterweight and middleweight divisions.
Already established as one of the sport’s top trainers, Dundee continued to guide Leonard’s career through the next eight years and later trained George Foreman to his historic heavyweight-title win in 1994.
Despite Hearns’ loss against Leonard, Steward would become one of the most successful and requested trainers of the next three decades.
In fact, Steward guided the sport’s two recent heavyweight champions who dominated their eras — Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.
Sadly, boxing has lost the Hall of Fame trainers within the 2012 calendar. Nearly 10 months after Dundee died of a heart attack at age 90, Steward died last Thursday following a brief illness. Steward was 68.
The deaths of Dundee and now Steward leave boxing with a monumental void which could take years to fill.
For all their accomplishments with fighters, Steward and Dundee were two of the sport’s remaining goodwill ambassadors. A genuine smile and handshake, often followed by conversation, defined Steward’s and Dundee’s people-relating skills.
“He was an important part of our boxing community,” Oscar De La Hoya, six-division world champion, said of Steward. Steward trained De La Hoya in 1997.
“I learned a lot from him during our professional relationship, and I will be forever grateful for his help during that time.”
Steward also earned favorable reviews for his exemplary work as a fight analyst on HBO since 2001. Whenever he took a break from his training responsibilities, Steward was at ringside alongside HBO colleagues Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, Max Kellerman and Harold Lederman describing many of the network’s top fights of the past 10 years.
“For more than a decade, Manny was a respected colleague who taught us so much not only about the sweet science but also about friendship and loyalty,” Ken Hershman, president of HBO sports, said in a statement.
“His energy, enthusiasm and bright smile were a constant presence. Ten bells do not seem enough to mourn his passing. His contributions to the sport and to HBO will never be forgotten.”
Like Dundee’s death Feb. 1, Steward’s passing had a touching effect outside of the United States.
Klitschko, a Ukraine native and part-time Hollywood resident, was at a career crossroads when Steward became his trainer eight years ago. Although Klitschko already had enjoyed a title reign, his knockout loss against Corrie Sanders raised questions about Klitschko’s durability as a significant heavyweight.
Under Steward’s guidance, Klitschko overcame the loss against Sanders and now has successfully followed Lewis as the top heavyweight of his generation.
Moreover, Klitschko is deeply affected by Steward’s death.
“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,” Klitschko said in a statement.
“I will miss our time together — the long talks about boxing, the world, and life itself. Most of all, I will miss our friendship.”
Steward’s failing health prevented him from preparing Klitschko for his 13th title defense against Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10 in Germany.
“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,” Klitschko said. “I know he will be with us in spirit along the way and we will accomplish these goals in his honor.”
Funeral services for Steward will be Nov. 13 at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.