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Exclusive Interview With Emanuel Steward - “Not Only Was Tommy Hearns The Best Fighter I Ever Worked With, He Was Also The Most Exciting”

By James Slater: Recently, I was fortunate enough to have been able to speak with the great Emanuel Steward - where I asked “Manny” for his top-five when it comes to the best fighters he has ever worked with. The Hall of Fame trainer who established the legendary Kronk gym in Detroit has worked with so many great fighters, listing them all would take up a very long article indeed. Having produced so many world champions, Emanuel has to think quite hard when giving his choices for the best five he has been associated with - at least Emanuel had to think hard when listing guys two through five.

When it comes to his number-one great, Steward has one very “special” boxer on his mind.

1: Tommy Hearns.

“Not only was Tommy the best fighter I ever worked with, he was also the most exciting. For me, climbing in the ring whenever Tommy fought, it was just so exciting. Tommy was very special. He was probably the closest reflection to my own style of fighting (Emanuel fought himself, as an amateur, in the early 1960s before switching to training). With Tommy, he had so many outstanding qualities it’s hard to list just one - but he was so dedicated. Tommy worked so hard in the gym. If I told him, ‘Tommy, today you spar 20 rounds.’ He’d say ‘Okay.’ That’s just the way he was - dedicated.”

2: Oscar De La Hoya.

“Oscar had tremendous natural talent. In fact, he had phenomenal talent. I’d probably say Oscar was the most naturally talented guy I worked with as a pro. Although one guy I worked with, but not as a pro, only as an amateur, was “Sugar” Ray Leonard. He was the most gifted guy I ever saw. Next to him, it’s De La Hoya.”

3: Lennox Lewis.

“Lennox was another tremendously hard worker. When I took Lennox over, I had just trained a guy to knock him out - Oliver McCall. But I told everyone Lewis would be the next dominant heavyweight. Again, Lennox had natural talent, but I had to work with him to polish it. I worked on his jab and that became his most formidable weapon. The jab is the most important punch in boxing.”

4: Julio Cesar Chavez.

“Chavez was a surprisingly good boxer. I was surprised when I first started working with him. I asked him why he didn’t box more in his fights, why he was always so aggressive. He said, ‘Look at the guys Don King keeps putting me in with: Hector Camacho, Meldrick Taylor!’ All great boxers. Chavez’s physical strength was a great asset of his.”

5: Wladimir Klitschko.

“The best all-round fighter I’ve ever worked with. Wladimir has natural gifts and he has a lot going for him physically: he can knock a guy out with one punch with either hand. His power is truly special. But Wladimir also continues to learn in the gym. He’s another guy who has real dedication. As a matter of fact, all the guys I’ve worked with have been hard workers in the gym. That’s what makes a great fighter.”

(honourable mention) Dennis Andries.

“Dennis was a fiercely determined fighter. He came to me after Tommy [Hearns] had KO’d him in March of 1987, asking me to be his manager. His spirit impressed me, so I took him on. For about a month, he took beatings in the gym. Everyone wanted a piece of him. But after a while, he began to come out on top in the gym. He was short on natural talent - he never had great coordination and I never tried to change his style too much - but he had so much sheer desire and bravery. Dennis had truly unbelievable determination. That drive carried him through all his fights. Dennis was always a very quiet, reserved guy. That was another part of his mental makeup.”

Article posted on 02.04.2011



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