DETROIT (WXYZ) - Legendary boxing trainer Emanuel Steward has passed away at age 68 and the family has confirmed his death.
Steward's sister, Diane called me at 3:29 and said, "He went home about half an hour ago. He fought harder than Hagler and Hearns. I'll tell you more later. It's too tough right now."
Steward's health had declined in recent months and he underwent surgery for diverticulosis recently. Diane stated in the phone call that he suffered setback after setback this week and was unable to fight through them.
Cornelius "K9" Bundrage, who recently cut ties with the Kronk Gym but trained there as he rose through the ranks to his IBF Junior Middleweight World Championship, was incredibly saddened by the news.
"Emanuel Steward is the best trainer of all-time," said Bundrage. "He's done so much for not just the city of Detroit, but for boxing and a lot of people's lives. I remember there was a time where I had nowhere to go and he let me stay at one of his houses.
"Me being the last world champion that he trained - he was actually in the corner with me, it's really going to hit home, big time."
Earlier in the day, as reports were circulating of Steward's death, Diane refuted that her brother had passed, issuing the following statement via text message at 11:25am Thursday morning.
"You can tell folks that he is alive and being treated by some of the best experts in the world. The Steward family is dismayed and greatly disheartened and disappointed that during this personally challenging time, people would callously and thoughtlessly run wild with untrue statements in order to garner their '15 minutes of fame.'
"Where is the moral compass of those seeking to capitalize on this situation? Does anybody take the time to check out the facts anymore?
"Many of those issuing reckless statements have our phone numbers as well as Emanuel's office number and yet, they haven't called, just issued statements that are terrorizing Emanuel's children, siblings and relatives that aren't able to be here at the hospital.
"SHAME ON THEM! He has feelings and we, his family, have feelings. Consider that and give us our privacy to help our loved ones."
The 68 year-old Steward has been battling an unspecified illness over the past few months and the family has asked for prayers for his recovery.
It was reported late Wednesday on the website of the Detroit Free Press that Steward recently underwent surgery for diverticulosis.
Steward began training boxers in 1971 and is most famous for his work with world champions Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Wladimir Klitschko, Miguel Cotto, Oscar de la Hoya and Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.
He fortified the Kronk Gym and transformed it into a boxing haven, respected around the world as one of the best training centers in the world.
Steward was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997 and is also a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame. He has served as a ringside analyst for HBO's coverage of boxing for many years.