Coach tries to save gym where Leonard trained

Updated: December 22, 2005, 8:54 AM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Boxing coach Emanuel Steward announced a benefit fight night to raise money to save the Kronk Recreation Center, where he has trained generations of champions in a dingy basement gym.

Steward -- whose champions include Thomas Hearns, Lennox Lewis, Oscar de La Hoya, Evander Holyfield and Hilmer Kenty -- is trying to raise enough money to keep the Kronk from closing. The center in southwest Detroit is one of nine that the cash-strapped city has slated for closure.

Last week, Steward and Kenty met with the city's recreation director and agreed to work out a deal for Steward's foundation to take over the Kronk. Now Steward is trying to raise the money to do it.

The benefit, Fight Night at the Fisher, is planned for Feb. 2, three days before Detroit hosts the Super Bowl. The event, featuring professional and amateur fights in the lobby of the opulent Fisher Building, will be headlined by heavyweight Jonathon Banks, of Detroit, who will take on Michael Word, of Milwaukee.

Steward, who started coaching in the Kronk's boxing program in 1971, said saving the center where Sugar Ray Leonard trained before winning the gold at the 1976 Olympics was a matter of pride for Detroit.

"It's the most famous recreation center in the world," he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "You think of Kronk, you think of Detroit."

Steward said he is awaiting numbers from the city to calculate the exact cost of operating the Kronk and to determine whether it makes sense to renovate the aging structure or tear it down and rebuild elsewhere in Detroit.

Tickets for the fundraiser range from $500 to $2,500. The evening also includes a live auction featuring Kronk memorabilia.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press