Appropriately, I think, given the book’s dual subject, I write about the great boxing trainer Emanuel Steward in Fighters & Writers in connection with another author’s work. In the essay “A First-Class Sport” (which takes its name from a comment made by Teddy Roosevelt), I consider how Steward and others used boxing as a way to help youngsters:
This desire to aid children’s development through boxing is common among both trainers and cops. In his memoir, Serenity, Ralph Wiley recalls his early days as a sportswriter on the boxing beat and visits he paid to the New Oakland Boxing Club, where he met a police officer representing the PAL who worked with young fighters. “Boxing breeds respect,” Jerry Blueford told Wiley. “I don’t care if any of these kids ever become pros, or even good amateurs for that matter. I’m trying to get them into something they can work at. Off the streets. If they leave here in a couple of years and rob a bank, at least they didn’t rob it while they were here.” In a section that harkens back to Roosevelt’s remark about tough neighborhoods, Wiley describes visiting Detroit’s Kronk Boxing Club, in “the bottom of the rundown bunker of a recreation center on an otherwise barren lot of the decayed inner city.” Wiley calls the place “a haven of sorts for the children of Detroit” and he cannot help being impressed by its principal, trainer-manager Emanuel Steward, because of “how Emanuel had overcome long odds, and helped his young men overcome long odds, just to be strong and functional.”
Wiley refers to the original Kronk location on McGraw, where Steward taught Tommy Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Jimmy Paul, Duane Thomas, Dennis Andries, Steve McCrory, Milton McCrory, Michael Moorer, and so many others, not the later location on West Warren, which according to reports started being dismantled almost immediately after Steward’s death on October 25.
Detroit still needs the kinds of havens Steward provided.