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The gym for years was seen as a way to keep kids out of trouble in southwestern Detroit.

“A lot of these kids would be in the streets,” Steward once said. “They live for this.”

And, Steward lived for it, too.

He loved boxing – and boxers – but like the Motor City, the gym he adored fell on hard times.

The city closed the original Kronk Recreation Center – a hot, sweaty basement gym – after vandals stole its copper piping in 2006. It was allowed to remain open, but it put Steward in a difficult financial situation and he later rented space at a gym in Dearborn so his young fighters could train.

“With the loss of Emanuel Steward, we have lost a true Detroit icon,” Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said. “Emanuel Steward embodied our city’s toughness, our competitive spirit, and our determination to always answer the bell.

“We are grateful for Emanuel Steward’s many contributions to our city and his impact on generations of young people.”

In the early years at Kronk, most of his fighters were black. In recent years, his melting pot of boxers included a Ukrainian heavyweight, an Irish middleweight and scores of young men from Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

Steward was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996.

“It brings me great grief and sadness to hear of the passing of one of the best and most respected trainers of this era,” De La Hoya said. “I learned a lot from him during our professional relationship and I will be forever grateful for his help during that time. We were also friends and I know I am going to miss him as so many others will, too. He was an important part of our boxing community.”

Steward worked closely with Lewis during his title run, and with current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko as recently as July when the boxer led 22,000 fans in singing “Happy Birthday,” to the beloved trainer.

Klitschko had to train recently without Steward for his fight against Mariusz Wach next month in Germany

“His spirit is always here,” Klitschko said. “I can hear his voice in sparring while doing things, whispering in my ear. As the famous saying goes, `The show must go on,’ and that’s exactly the case.”

Steward also trained actor Wesley Snipes for his role as a boxer in “Undisputed” and appeared briefly with Lewis in “Ocean’s Eleven

Steward worked since 2001 as a boxing analyst for HBO, sharing his rich knowledge of the sport and warm personality with a younger generation of fans.

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