Emanuel Steward, one of the greatest and most respected trainers we have seen in boxing history passed away last October the 25th, from complications due to colon cancer and on that day boxing lost one of it’s greatest ambassadors. Today’s date, July the 7th would have marked his 69th birthday, and in celebration of Emanuel’s impact not just on boxing, but on this radio show, I would like to present a new interview article featuring this great man and some of his boxing views that hold great weight, even today.
During “On The Ropes” boxing radio’s over 4 year long run on the airwaves, Emanuel took time out of his life to appear 26 separate times on the show. In this special OTR classics, Emanuel shared his thoughts on why Lennox Lewis never gave Vitali Klitschko a rematch. He also talked about boxing’s growing drug problem and his view on Juan Manuel Marquez. Additionally Emanuel addressed Pacquaio’s all-time ranking, the last Mayweather fight he watched, the future of boxing, and his thoughts on the legacy of Wladimir Klitschko. Here is what the legendary Emanuel Steward had to say.
JENNA: Emanuel, I want to get your thoughts on why we never saw a Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko rematch. Did you ever want to see this fight happen?
STEWARD: Yes. I told Lennox after. I said, “Lennox, I feel that we owe it to Vitali to fight this rematch. Sometimes you fight for your glory and money, but this is a fight that we owe to the fans. We’ve made millions of dollars in boxing. We need to do this”, and Lennox was in agreement for it. Even a year after Lennox had quit, he and I would be talking about the fight and he worked alongside me in the broadcast for one of the fights with Wladimir. He would say, “Look! He’s dropping his right hand when he jabs!” He was talking to himself like really getting wired up and envisioning himself fighting Vitali, but his wife was the one that said, “Nope! That’s it”. It was like one of the conditions when they were married. She didn’t want him to fight anymore, but Lennox did have the urge to fight again and if they did fight a rematch it would have been an unbelievably exciting fight. I felt that if they had fought within six months time I still said Lennox would have won the fight because he would have had better time to prepare for the size. Vitali is a tall guy and he fights tall. He keeps his body in an erect type statue-esque position, and he walks that way. He’s very, very tall. When he fights he’ll bend over and it’s a little funny the way he jabs at you, but it’s a jab where he could always pull back and move his head at the same time he pulls back. Him and Lennox would have been a great rematch and I think it would have been an exciting fight. It’s something that after about two years I told Lennox to forget about it, it’s too late now.
Right at the time when Vitali retired, I said, “Well if he comes back and you were to come back and fight, this would be the time you guys would fight.” If they would have fought, I would have naturally went with Lennox. Vitali and Wladimir made an agreement when I started that if a Lennox fight ever came up with either one of them, that I would work with Lennox and they understood that.
JENNA: The Klitschko brothers still hold all the major heavyweight titles. Do you think this has been good or bad for the Heavyweight division?
STEWARD: It’s very unique. I don’t think this will maybe again happen in our lifetimes, where we have two brothers who will have control of an entire division. I guess the total when you look at the Ring Magazine and the IBO title, then you’re talking about a total of five or six titles. It’s great and in a way it’s not good because for boxing there are no worthwhile fights out there. But historically for the brothers it’s unbelievable! For a point in time in history, even though it’s really kind of locked up the heavyweight division to the point where there are no more good fights, but when history looks at it, it will be great. We will be able to say we were part of the time when two brothers controlled the whole most major division in sports.
There are not many big fights out there. In fact I just spoke to Wladimir about an hour ago, and we were talking about the fact that Povetkin finally said that he’s willing to take a chance now and he wants to fight Wladimir. So I mean it’s to the point where there is not much to get excited about, and that may be an interesting fight. But at one point that would have been nothing, but just based on the fact that we’re looking for whatever would be considered maybe a decent fight or a name recognition fight is what the heavyweight division has come to, because the two brothers control everything.
Somewhere along the line I told Wladimir there is always going to be a big fight that comes up in the heavyweight division as long as you could hold those titles. Lennox was very much in the same position and it was very frustrating, and people forget his career was very much like Wladimir’s. Then all of a sudden with a streak of luck, we wound up with a fight with Evander Holyfield just when Lennox was pretty much resigned to never having a signature fight. Then we followed those two fights up with Mike Tyson. He was very fortunate, but in the heavyweight division it doesn’t take much to come up over night with an opponent as we have seen with David Haye, without even fighting or beating a worthwhile opponent, just through hype! It’s because the world is always looking for a good competitive heavyweight fight. So if anyone can come around and win two or three fights and have a little showmanship, all of a sudden we’ll be into a very interesting public marketable heavyweight fight. Even though the guy may not have as much of a background or history or track record, the public is always hungry for a good heavyweight fight.
JENNA: Emanuel, one fighter out there that surprises a lot of people these days is Juan Manuel Marquez. At his age and with amount of hard battles that he had, are you at all surprised by what he is doing?
STEWARD: I am just totally amazed and shocked when you look at the fact that it’s the little small guys who usually start declining because speed, coordination, and timing is so important for smaller division fighters. For him to be fighting on this level, maybe better than ever, and I remember when was involved with training Prince Naseem Hamed about ten years ago, he was the one fighter that I told Naz that I didn’t want to fight. I mean he was that good already and he was nowhere like he is now. So he has been fighting at top form a long time and in this last fight I was just totally amazed how he was able to get out of trouble, blocking, picking punches off, and counter-punching with effective punches from a young aggressive guy who was crowding him. As soon as he got a little daylight he put it all together. This was a tremendous performance. I would say I have to rate him as one of the all around fundamentally good boxers in the history of the sport, maybe up there with the best that can do everything, and he has tremendous punching power. I know we’ve had his teammate Ricardo Lopez was considered a great, but nobody was in kind of trenches that he’s been in and still had so much punching power in addition to ring intelligence.
I’m looking at the fights with Pacquiao, and if it hadn’t been that he knocked down three times in that first round I think because he wasn’t prepared for that fast onslaught of Manny. Manny particularly had such good foot work. He comes at you from all angles, but once he figured that out and avoided the straight left for Manny, really for the rest of that fight he won most of the rounds. He still ended up with a draw because of the scoring system, and I think in the second fight there was a knockdown in an exchange that cost him that fight. But for total rounds and overall generalship in the fights with Pacquiao, I think he won more rounds still, but the knockdowns cost him to lose the edge and from winning the fights. I was definitely looking for some decline after the tough fight with the punches he took from a much bigger talented guy like Mayweather. I expected him to slow down a little bit. Then the tough fight, and all of his fights have been tough, but Juan Diaz that was still a tough fight, and then going back with all of the tough fights that he’s had with Barrera and everyone.
I thought he would be slipping, but that’s not the case and to me. I think another fight between him and Manny Pacquiao would be a phenomenal fight. It would once again be a dramatic fight regardless of who wins the fight. Manny will always be a problem because he moves and punches from so many different angles and he has good punching power with both hands, and Marquez will always be a problem for Manny because Manny gets off-balance. He does this sometimes when he’s overexcited. Marquez is going to be ready to take advantage of every mistake that he makes.
JENNA: Based on what Manny Pacquiao has accomplished so far in his career, where would you rank him amongst the all-time greats?
STEWARD: Among all time greats, I would say he has to be in the top dozen, not so much for what he did not so much for what he did in the last couple of years, it’s the earlier part of his career that lasts about two or three years ago. When you keep fighting against the best continually, and that’s what I rank greatness on—performance against the best, not just all of these records and eight or nine championships. To me that doesn’t really mean anything. You got four different organizations, maybe five depending on what you want to respect, and every five pounds is a different weight division. But the fact that he’s fought some of the best, and most of the guys were future Hall of Fame guys themselves. He has performed on a top level and just to have this longevity, I would have to rate him in the top dozen fighters of all time.
JENNA: Mayweather & Pacquiao have shared a lot of common opponents. If you look at their performances in those fights and compare how they did against the same fighters, how do you think a Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight would play out if there were ever to meet in the ring?
STEWARD: I’ve always said that I would give Floyd the edge. First of all Floyd is physically bigger. Forget about all of these weights, Floyd is actually a strong sturdy guy. If you notice in his fight with Mosley he actually was physically stronger. In the same round that he was hurt in, in my mind I thought in the last thirty seconds he had taken control even in that round. I think he’s bigger than Manny is and I think his boxing techniques would be a problem for Manny and Floyd would probably capitalize on Manny’s bad position sometimes when he throws punches. Nevertheless, Manny would make him have to fight and that’s something we have not had anyone do with Floyd. He would not go out and beat Manny and control Manny as easily as he has Mosley and a lot of the other recent guys. He would have to extend himself and that’s what I don’t think he really wants to do, but Manny’s going to hit him and Manny’s going to make him fight. I’ll give a slight edge to Floyd but you never can tell because the inside warrior mindset of Manny is what gets him through a lot of his fights. He might get outboxed to a certain degree but he’s going to make you dig down inside. To compare with De La Hoya, I can’t because De La Hoya when he fought Manny was not the same De La Hoya. It was a physical thing because of dietary and weight loss and whatnot like that. So I try and compare the guys when they fought in their primes, with top fighters in their primes fighting other top fighters in their primes and not just fighting names. That’s what’s happening a lot recently. Guys are fighting names of fighters who are no longer in their primes.
JENNA: Emanuel, what were your thoughts on the last performance you saw from Floyd Mayweather Jr and based on what you have seen from Floyd through out his entire career, where would you rank him among the all-time great fighters?
STEWARD: Floyd Mayweather Junior is one of the best all around boxers I ever saw. He’s been good all of his life! It’s not like he just started. Since he was a baby he was always a good fighter. I think he wanted to show that he can sit there and fight and perform, and he took risks. I mean he took risks, but he was still real savvy with the way he was rolling with punches and picking them off. I thought it was a masterful performance on his part the way he avoided punches. Sometimes in the past he would just put his head halfway out the ring where you couldn’t hit him, like in the Ricky Hatton situation or even prior to the butt with Ortiz. But in this case he was rolling with punches, slipping punches, and punching back, placing his punches, and once Miguel would slow down then Floyd would take control again. I just thought he fought a good fight and it was exciting because with a lot of the fans who were not so close to ringside, they all thought that Miguel had been more effective than he really was. With a lot of those punches if you were sitting closer, you could see Floyd picking them and rolling. Outside of the bloody nose Floyd really was unmarked, and I thought that sometimes when the crowd would go crazy his head would like snap back, because he fights with his head high anyway. He has so much control that he likes to see and control everything. So that’s just his style. A lot of the effectiveness of Miguel’s punches was exaggerated to same degree, but Miguel came to fight and he forced Floyd to fight outside of his comfort zone, which is what I have been wanting to see for a long time. He came through very well. I actually gave Miguel maybe three or four rounds, but I mean it looked good from the crowd and the audience because a lot of people were comparing this fight to Floyd’s other performances. So he was still having a struggle for a change and we tendency to give the opponent more credit than he really deserved. But I thought Miguel did what he was supposed to do. If he had operated behind a hard authoritative jab I thought he could have been much more effective.
JENNA: Alright Emanuel, the biggest stars in boxing today Mayweather, Pacquiao, Martinez, B-Hop, the Klitschko brothers—all of these guys in their 30s and 40s, and from your perspective who do you think are the future stars of the sport that we’ll be talking about ten years from now?
STEWARD: Oh my Gawd! I should have written a list down. I see a lot of good fighters coming up. I go to the fights. I like to go to the arenas, me and Harold Lederman before a lot of the other announcers come in, to watch the beginning fights. I see a lot of good fighters coming up, but not so much in the heavyweight. That’s what bothers me. But in all of the other divisions I see a lot of good fighters coming up. There is a junior welterweight from Puerto Rico. I forget what his name is. He signed with Lou DiBella, I know that. He is a phenomenal fighter, but I look at boxing and I see the future of boxing looking very good with a lot of great young fighters when you take the heavyweights out of the equation. From the welterweight division down it seems like, not so much in the middleweights. But from the welterweights on down, I see a lot of good fighters coming up.
JENNA: Emanuel, a hot top topic going on in boxing is the continuing problem boxing seems to have with performance enhancing drugs, as we have seen quite a few top boxers testing positive for banned substances. I’m curious what your thoughts are on the whole steroid trend that seems to be going on in boxing.
STEWARD: I think it’s horrible, we have a lot of cheating going on in different ways, and when you start cheating with things like tampering with the gloves, and injecting something that’s going to make your strength triple, sometimes, double and triple, that’s totally serious because you could do a lot of physical damage, and people can be ruined for the rest of their life because of that. And I never looked at it, because I don’t do it, and I don’t think about it, but I’m becoming much more aware, since the incident with Andy, and people with phone calls that I’ve been receiving with information. Evidently, it’s a lot more prevalent and widespread in boxing as well as other sports, than I thought. Everyone since the beginning of time is always going to be trying to get an edge. There are ways I did, natural with carbohydrates, and certain things you can eat in the last 24 hours. But then and again I’m behind the times, I’m finding out more and more that a lot of boxers are taking all kind of enhancement things and spending a lot of time researching on ways to pass the tests. I’ve spoken to some of these clinics about the way guys saying they’re willing to take a urine tests, they go into a stall, and someone else has left a urine already, something that they can use and they get to the inspector, they have they have it in a little sandwich like zipped bag, underneath their trunks/shorts, and it’s taped to the body so that way it comes out warm.
I think we need to get some national body to this drug testing, not local commissions, because sometimes, for different reasons, they may not be impartial, as they may not want anything to come back, which may upset a lot of money that have been won and already paid out, if something comes back they got to pay it back. I think we need a neutral, powerful organization. I know one of them is VADA, which is the one that found the drugs in Antonio Tarver. They need to come in, and not have the states doing it and take those tests. This is something that is growing extremely serious, and if it’s not corrected it can really hurt this sport.
JENNA: A lot of people know you as a trainer, but you also manage some fighters. What is the most frustrating part of being the manager of a fighter as opposed to just being a trainer?
STEWARD: No, no! The most frustrating part is being a trainer, because you see the decisions made a lot of times that are not good for the fighter in terms of image and in terms of opponents, but if the promoter find it’s good for them sometimes to accept a certain fight they’re going to benefit down the line with maybe another fighter that they promote or manage. So they sometimes make a bad fight for certain fighters and there is nothing too much you can do. That’s why I enjoy being in the management position really more than I do as a trainer. I’m more famous as a trainer, but I’m in the Hall of Fame as a manager/trainer. But I enjoy the managing more simply because you have a little more input than you do as a trainer. Regardless of that, you try and do the best that you can.
Most of the training situations that I’ve been in, at least a lot of them, they do talk to me and speak to me in relation to the opponent, where it should be, and the officials. So that’s good in some cases. In some cases they don’t. They say this is who we got to fight and you have to just deal with it, like with Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman. I thought that was the worst fight in the world for him, but when they asked me in that situation it was a challenge.
Whenever I pick someone that I favor to win a fight, and then to be offered a role to be the trainer and go against and change the result that I was predicting. I had that often like the rematch with Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello where I picked Arguello to win the rematch because I knew that Panama wasn’t going to be there with any black bottles. Then when they asked me to train Pryor, Pryor said, “I noticed you picked Arguello for the rematch!” I said, “Yeah, well I’m going to try to train you to not do the things that were making me pick him to win”. I have done that on quite a few occasions. I find it a challenge to work with a guy who’s an underdog, at least in my mind, to see if I can change what I was going to see if I hadn’t have been there. So I guess I enjoy that, but it’s very frustrating usually as a trainer for me.
JENNA: Emanuel there has been a debate amongst boxing fans, between Wladimir Klitschko and Vitali Klitschko, who is the greater fighter. From your perspective, when both men retire, who do you think will go down as the greater heavyweight?
STEWARD: You know when I’m watching and when they pull out statistics and things, it goes and shows Vitali. As Max Kellerman, my fellow broadcaster, was really going on about how Vitali’s never been behind on the scorecards, he’s never been off his feet, and a lot of this and that. Then a lot of people look, and even though Wladimir lost three fights by knockout he came back and I think avenged two of those. He is still the more talented, and gifted, and coordinated one. It’s going to be very interesting, but I think it’s a great situation for the two brothers to be up there and considered among the all-time greats and arguing about which one is better than the other. They enjoy that, themselves. There is still a lot of competition among themselves, which is good. They’re very competitive. Vitali was very upset that he didn’t get to fight David Haye, so if he gets the chance he would fight Haye probably even though Haye doesn’t deserve it, just so he can try to shut him up and beat him up better than his brother. So they do have a strong competitiveness. I don’t think it will ever erupt or boil over to them fighting each other, because Wladimir said, “The last time we sparred, it was just so brutal. The ring would be bloody, and we would be fighting, and they’d call time, we’d still be fighting. So we just decided that’s it. We’re too competitive.”
“That’s what makes a great fight if you guys ever fought.”
But he said, “One of us would end up with at least permanent physical damage,” and he said that very seriously.
But they’re very competitive, so they are going to be competing I think in the next few years by trying to outshine each other with opponents, in particular common opponents. But who will go down as the greatest in history? I really couldn’t say because right now I see a lot of people are pointing to Vitali because he did have that great performance and his signature fight in the fight that he lost! Lennox Lewis was his signature fight, and it’s funny. He got more credibility and was solidified by the fans from the fight that he lost more than any of the fights that he’s won. Now Wladimir has not had that signature fight yet. I think the signature fight was still with Sam Peter in the first fight, but people have forgotten about that. If he would have had a great fight and a competitive fight with David Haye then it would have been great for him, but it didn’t turn out to be that way.
JENNA: Ok Emanuel, Wladimir has been on an amazing run as a champion, one of longest reigns in heavyweight history, if he continues this, historically how do you think he’ll be remembered?
STEWARD: Well I think he’s gonna be remembered in history, probably as in the top ten heavyweight champions, not so much because of any one significant fight, which would be great, as most heavyweights have that one or two fights that defines them. Joe Louis was fortunate to have some good fights, and Ali had a series of them, the Foreman fight, the Sonny Liston fight, and the Joe Frazier fights. But so far he hasn’t had that and so he’ll be remembered in history, primarily because of the fact that he had records that he’s been setting, and he has his overall record and the reign that he has had a champion, and that’s why he’ll be considered as one of the top heavyweights. It’s very frustrating because you can’t fight the generation of the fighters that have been there before you, you can’t go back and fight the Foreman, the Lennox Lewis, and the Larry Holmes who was one of the best heavyweights and never has been fully appreciated. And he can’t fight the future, so all he can do is be the best of his own time and his era and that’s what he’s doing. It’s just unfortunate the he has no one to fight that the public is interested in. But anything can happen in the HW division and just one or two stars can erupt and them boom! Out of nowhere you got a big fight.
*** I would like to send out a special thank you to doghouse boxing writer Robert Brown for his work in helping to bring this article to boxing readers
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