Part Two: Manny Steward, memories of a legend

In memory of the great trainer, who passed away on 25 October, we take a look back at writer Matt Christie's time with an all-time boxing legend

26 October 2012    |    0 Comments

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To read Part One of our piece on all-time-great boxing coach Emanuel Steward, please click here

Steward, who took the reins of Lewis soon afterwards, helped to steer the Brit in the right direction just like he has done with Klitschko. Another of his most diligent pupils, Thomas Hearns, completes a trio of hellacious hitters whom Steward fed and nurtured with his magic touch, and then let out into the wild. Each of them fended for themselves with admirable poise and control, and of course, that built-in bomb. The key to successful detonation, the 66-year-old explains, begins with precision launching and careful movement of the weapon while it is in the air.

“If you can see a punch coming,” Emanuel whispers while crouching and pretending to shield an incoming shot, “then your body prepares for it. Even your nervous system braces for it. Think about it, if I'm stood here and I tell you to hit me in the stomach, you can hit me and I'll have tensed my stomach and be prepared for it. But five minutes later, I could be on the phone, you could hit me again with exactly the same force and it will double me over because I wasn't prepared for it. And that's the trick to knockouts; the punch you don't see is what hurts you. The key is to tighten up at the end of the punches, and keep good balance. The punch has to come in unnoticed by taking their attention away.”

The sweetness of the science is blended with delightful articulation, illuminated further by energetic delivery. The majority have paid to listen to the patter but others, like former European light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore, prospect Chris Evangelou and even former Kronkgoer Errol Christie, are all as equally lost in the boxing romance that Steward has intricately interwoven into the machismo-heavy air. But Steward admits that to get ahead in the beautiful game, you have to adapt in battle, and get ugly. He talks about Lennox's final contest to make his point.

“At the end of the fourth round I told him we were losing the heavyweight championship of the world. It was because he was taller and Lennox but Vitali was still in range and hitting him. But I told him, ‘Vitali doesn't have good balance, I can tell by the way he crosses his legs. So when you jab, don't just jab, push with it. You will make him lose his balance. When you get inside throw a left hook and bang him with your shoulders, rip in uppercuts. You have to take this to the street.'

“In the fifth round he goes out there and changes the fight. He rips Vitali apart. Sixth round, there's cuts everywhere and at the end of that round I made my way into the ring and I was crawling through the steps and there's big pockets of blood and I looked and saw Vitali making his way back to his corner. They stopped the fight. I've been with Vitali and people since then and they've said, ‘Mr Steward, if the fight had continued Vitali would have won the fight'. I said, ‘There's no way you'd have won the fight, Vitali! Damn the scorecards, there was still six rounds to go!'”

Steward claims there were several ways that fight was going to go. Due to prior research on Klitschko, he was able to change plans with his fighter who, in turn, executed the switch to pull out victory. And it is respect for the opponent that breeds such extensive preparation. Steward explains that no opponent should ever be underestimated.

“It happens, still happens, through all of boxing. Lennox was told Oliver McCall was just an old crack addict and he believed it.” Emanuel states before adding, “Every fighter is in the fight for a reason. There is a whole lot of publicity surrounding Dereck Chisora and I respect him. I seriously do. Nobody here thinks he's going to win do they? But you just don't know. He's got the energy, the confidence and the determination that Wladimir has not been used to.”

This was before the younger Klitschko pulled out of the Chisora fight a second time, having first starch the contest through injury, which Steward believes could have been avoided without excessive stretching and pulling of the muscles.

“The conditioning coaches are okay,” our speaker accepts, “as long as they're used my way. A lot of them are used as if they're training guys for weightlifting contests. It's got to be done properly and most of the guys get too carried away with it. I was training with Oscar De La Hoya and he asked me to go around and see him at 7pm. He said there would be some strength trainers there.

“I got round there and Oscar is bent over trying to lift up like 600lbs. I said, ‘What the hell are you guys all doing?' They got the weights off him and he shot past me and into his house like a kid who was in trouble. They said, ‘Well, Emanuel, according to what we read in a book, boxing is powered from the thighs and this muscle and that.' They were trying to tell me all this complicated stuff. But you don't need any of that. Not in boxing, this all came from other sports like football, boxing is different. Oscar ended up more worried, at that point, on his weight training than he was about his boxing. I told these strength guys to go home.”

And just like that, we are being told the same too. It feels like we have just got here. I look at my phone to check the time. I have been listening to Emanuel for just over four hours and like the lift on the way up, I had no idea time had passed until I just checked.

Emanuel tries to prolong the storytelling as long as possible while he poses for pictures and signs autographs for all in attendance. The exuberant mood that hurtled through the air as I arrived has grown and cleansed my Sunday sorrow. As clinics go, this one comes highly recommended.

To read Part One of our piece on all-time-great boxing coach Emanuel Steward, please click here

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Fighting Fit is published by Newsquest Specialist Media, the world’s leading combat sport publisher. Other titles include Boxing News, The Boxing News Annual and The Boxing News Health & Fitness Series

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