Wladimir Klitschko and Johnathon Banks Commit to Preserving Kronk Gym

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has committed to saving the Kronk Gym.
Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko has committed to saving the Kronk Gym.Witters Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Lost in the media swarm surrounding the passing of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward was the fate of the largest piece of his legacy—Detroit's Kronk Gym.

Kronk became more than a boxing facility under Steward, it became a place where Detroit kids could get off the streets, get a hot meal and improve their lives.

In the days after his passing, the Detroit Free Press reported vandalism at the facility, with many items being stolen. It seems that Kronk, which served countless thousands of at-risk youth, would die along with the man who dedicated his life to it.

On Oct. 28, in my column I expressed my hope that somebody would step up and save the facility.

After-all, it is the single largest piece of a legacy left by a man who most knew for his boxing contributions, but which a city revered for his kindness and commitment to ensuring young people would not grow up on the streets, as he had.

It now appears that two people, both of whom had their lives touched by Emanuel Steward, will do just that—recognized heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and his friend and heavyweight contender himself, Johnathon Banks.

Klitschko, who can rightly credit Steward with turning his career around and making him into the great fighter he is today, told Jake Donovan of BoxingScene.com that he was saddened to hear of the vandalism but is committed to ensuring the gym remains open and pursues its mission.

Klitschko had this to say:

Kronk Gym has existed for a long time and it will continue to exist. I will do my dedication to that. Fortunately there are a lot of people in Detroit – a lot of boxers as well – who have worked under Emanuel Steward. I’m taking responsibility, but I am more than sure that all of us are united in our strategy of preserving the spirit of Emanuel Steward in Kronk Gym.

Klitschko credited Steward with using boxing to help kids get off the streets and stay away from drugs. He will be joined by Banks, a heavyweight contender who will work his corner in his upcoming fight in Steward's place, and who credits Kronk with getting his career started.

Banks told BoxingScene.com:

You are talking about a gym – the name alone is a part of my upbringing going back to when I was an amateur fighter. Seeing the gym as it is now, from the outside and the inside it’s very hard to look at. As Wladimir said, all of the Kronk Fighters that trained under Emanuel Steward are united in keeping that legacy going as he would

And that's the key point, it's about legacy. And even more than that, it's about the thing Emanuel Steward lived for above all else—helping people.

It's commendable that Wladimir Klitschko and Johnathon Banks are stepping up in this way. Let's hope they are correct and the boxing community, and the local community in Detroit, will support them and keep Kronk doing its mission.

Untold numbers of lives have been bettered by the facility, and that's more important than anything one can accomplish in a boxing ring.