Emanuel Steward was born in Bottom Creek, West Virginia, on July 7, 1944. He was the first child of Manuel, a coal miner, and Catherine Steward.
He became interested in boxing at age 8 after he was given a pair of boxing gloves as a Christmas gift.
Steward's parents divorced when he was 11, and he moved to Detroit with his mother and two younger sisters when he was 12.
He started boxing at the local Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O.) in Detroit, but the C.Y.O. boxing program was shut down when he was 13. He then started training at the Brewster Recreation Center, the famed gym that produced the great Joe Louis. Steward would later train at the Lasky Recreation Center and the Big D Gym.
In 1963, Steward won the National Golden Gloves Bantamweight Championship. His final amateur record was 94-3.
Steward planned to turn professional, but he had difficulty finding a manager to handle his career. His best managerial offer came from a California group that included Eddie Futch. The offer required Steward to relocate to California, but he was still closely attached to his mother and his two younger sisters, who still lived in Detroit. Subsequently, he decided to turn down the offer to remain close to his family.
In 1964, Steward married Marie Steele, who would remain his wife until his passing, and he began working at Detroit Edison Company as a construction laborer. He eventually progressed to journeyman electrician and later a master electrician.
During the summer of 1969, Steward's 15-year-old half-brother, James Steward, left West Virginia and moved to Detroit to live with him. Shortly after his arrival, James asked Emmanuel to teach him how to box. Emanuel had been out of boxing for some time, but he agreed to coach James. The two headed to the closest boxing gym, the Kronk Recreation Center. After only five months of training, James won a Detroit Golden Gloves title.
Steward became the head coach of the Kronk boxing program in 1971. Later that year, the Kronk boxers won the team title at the Detroit Golden Gloves Tournament.
In 1972, Steward decided to leave Detroit Edison and fully devote his time to training and developing his rapidly growing stable of young boxers. By the mid-1970s, Steward had built Kronk into a national power in amateur boxing.
Hilmer Kenty became Steward's first professional world champion when he knocked out Ernesto Espana in nine rounds to win the the WBA Lightweight Championship in March 1980. Five months later, Thomas Hearns, the boxer with whom Steward is most closely associated, knocked out Pipino Cuevas in two rounds to win the WBA Welterweight Championship.
For the next 30-plus years, Steward had a constant stable of champions, some of whom he was with from the early days of their careers and some more established fighters who sought him out because of his excellent reputation.
Steward also worked as a television boxing analyst, joining HBO in 2001.
On October 25, 2012, Steward passed away at a Chicago hospital. He had been hospitalized since September and had undergone surgery for diverticulitis, a stomach disorder. There were also various reports that he had stage 4 colon cancer as well.
His funeral in Detroit was attended by many people from the world of boxing, as well as politicians and celebrities. Singer and friend Aretha Franklin sang "I'll Fly Away" as a tribute.
Boxers with whom Steward is most closely associated:
- Johnathon Banks
- Leeonzer Barber
- Jesse Benavides
- Gaby Canizales
- Thomas Hearns
- John David Jackson
- Anthony Jones
- Hilmer Kenty
- Wladimir Klitschko
- Lennox Lewis
- Gerald McClellan
- Milton McCrory
- Michael Moorer
- Jimmy Paul
- Duane Thomas
'Boxers trained briefly by Steward:'
- Henry Akinwande
- Dennis Andries
- Vincent Boulware
- David Braxton
- Mark Breland
- Julio Cesar Chavez
- Kermit Cintron
- Miguel Cotto
- Chad Dawson
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Jeff Fenech
- Miguel Angel Gonzalez
- Naseem Hamed
- Vivian Harris
- Carlos Alberto Hernandez
- Lindell Holmes
- Evander Holyfield (for second fight against Riddick Bowe)
- Vitali Klitschko
- Andy Lee
- Oliver McCall (for first fight against Lennox Lewis)
- Mike McCallum
- Eddie Mustafa Muhammad
- Andrew Murray
- Welcome Ncita
- Aaron Pryor
- Lucia Rijker
- Graciano Rocchigiani
- Leon Spinks
- Jermain Taylor
- Tony Tucker
Awards & Recognition
- BWAA Manager of the Year in 1980 and 1989.
- BWAA Trainer of the Year in 1993 and 1997.
- Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Non-Participant Category) in 1996.
- Inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame (Expanded Category) in 2000.