Lennox Lewis last night spoke of being “completely devastated” by the death of revered trainer Emanuel Steward.
Steward, who had recently undergone surgery for a stomach illness, died on Thursday night aged 68 with his family gathered at his hospital bedside.
Involved in the careers of over 40 champions, Steward established his reputation as one of boxing’s greatest coaches at the legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit. Among his extensive list of world title-holders was former undisputed heavyweight king Lewis, who he trained from 1995 until the end of his career in 2003.
“I’m completely devastated by the passing of my long-time friend, mentor and trainer Emanuel ‘Manny’ Steward,” Lewis said on his website. “Manny has helped me get through some of the biggest fights in my career and I only regret that I couldn’t return the favour and see him through his biggest fight. We’ve maintained a close relationship and the last time we spoke he seemed his usual upbeat self, so it was very disturbing to hear about his illness and rapid decline. Manny always told me I was the best, but the truth is, he was the best and I’m grateful, privileged and honoured to be counted among his many historic successes.
“This has been a very tragic year for the boxing world, but today we’ve truly lost one of its crown jewels.
“Manny was giving, selfless, compassionate and stern. He always gave back to the community and never forgot where he came from.
“He was an institution unto himself and I’m proud to have had him in my corner for so many years.”
Lewis and Steward shared a strong bond forged upon their mutual admiration. When Lewis slumped to a shock second-round knockout defeat by Oliver McCall in 1994, Steward was recruited as coach and their 18-fight partnership saw Lewis claim the WBC, WBA and IBF belts.
One of Lewis’ successors as world heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, was being trained by Steward for next month’s showdown with Mariusz Wach.
“Boxing has suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Emanuel Steward,” Klitschko said.
“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.
“I will miss our time together. The long talks about boxing, the world, and life itself. Most of all I will miss our friendship.”
Klitschko, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, vowed to achieve the targets set by Steward in honour of his mentor.
“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,” he said.
“I know he will be with us in spirit along the way and we will accomplish these goals in his honour.”