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After Emanuel Steward's death, keepers of Kronk Gym won't throw in towel

Steward-Jones, head trainer Hill plan to revive renowned gym at new site
January 9, 2013

Diane Steward-Jones is still coming to grips with the death of her brother, Emanuel Steward, which, she said recently, ripped a hole in her heart, along with stealing away the soul of Detroit boxing.

But like Steward, who stamped the Motor City on the fight map with the Kronk Gym and its long list of champions, Steward-Jones won't throw in the towel, even though the doors of the Kronk on West Warren in Detroit were locked -- on her order -- the day after the legendary trainer's death Oct. 25, and remain padlocked.

In a West Bloomfield shopping center before Christmas, wearing her late mother's well-worn, red-and-gold Kronk Gym jacket, Steward-Jones and her nephew -- new Kronk head trainer Javan (Sugar) Hill -- talked about Steward's untimely death at 68 and what will happen to a storied gym that began its life in a small, stuffy basement of an inner-city recreational center on McGraw, not far from Olympia Stadium.

"It's rough some days -- some minutes are better than others," said Steward-Jones, who became the family spokesperson during her brother's battle against colon cancer and diverticulitis in a Chicago-area hospital. "It's like a crater -- there's a big part missing. You struggle day to day."

Steward-Jones and Hill, a former amateur fighter and Detroit cop who worked in the corner under Steward's direction for many years, say they will announce a new home for the Kronk Gym but won't be rushed into disclosing a location, although Southfield has been mentioned.

Meanwhile, many Kronk fighters, including the amateurs, are training temporarily elsewhere or have found permanent homes at other gyms around Detroit.

"Everybody is scattered out in different gyms throughout the city and metro area," said Hill, 41. "I told them just to train somewhere else and stay in shape, and when I have something to tell them, I'll let you guys know. ... We'll come back together. I don't expect all them to come back. But those who are truly Kronk fighters will."

The Kronk on Warren shut down quickly and unexpectedly after Steward's death. Equipment and Kronk memorabilia were removed, and the front door was bolted. Steward-Jones said the Steward family closed the facility to safeguard historic photos and other items from thieves.

While fight ghosts of the past haunt the storefront building, Steward's sister said his spirit has been passed on to Hill.

"He passed the leadership literally from his hospital bed in Chicago," said Steward-Jones, who stayed around the clock with her brother in his final days, keeping his location a secret from the media and the nature of his illness private. "He told Javan on the phone to 'keep winning' and passed the torch to him and told him to 'step forward and out of my shadow.' Javan is head coach for all Kronk."

Hill said he was comfortable with the role. He spent time as a young boy and teen around his uncle and learned the ropes of the fight game, first as a combatant and later as a trainer responsible for many of Kronk's amateur champions.

"I looked up to Emanuel as a fatherly influence and was around him most of my life," Hill said. "I'd like him to be around today. But I'm a realist. He's not. I've been groomed for this job, and I'm going to step up."

The question remains whether the Kronk will find a new home, be it in Southfield, Detroit or somewhere else within sight of the Motor City, where Steward turned Hilmer Kenty, Tommy Hearns, Mickey Goodwin, Milt McCrory and dozens of others into feared fighters.

"We are working on reorganizing the Kronk," Steward-Jones said. "Before his death, Emanuel was working on having things reorganized. My brother was aware changes had to come about. Time ran out for him.

"I remember, as a little girl, Emanuel would fix my hair, pick up my clothes. We'll fix things now for him."

Contact Mike Brudenell: 313-222-2115 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mikebrudenell.

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· Registered
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I hope it does and has some success, anyone know anything about Hill as a trainer? how involved was he?
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