Kronk Gym Burns

By Robert Ecksel on October 8, 2017
Kronk Gym Burns
Whatever is left of the building, which was built in the 1920s, will likely be demolished.

Deindustrialization, neglect, mismanagement and criminality brought this once-great city and gym to its knees…

Over the weekend in Detroit, Michigan, the boxing gym Emanuel Steward once called home was destroyed by a suspicious fire.

Authorities believe arson may have been the cause.

In the original Kronk Gym, situated in the basement of the Kronk Recreation Center at 5555 McGraw Street on Detroit’s west side, the Hall of Fame trainer hatched 30 world champions, including Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns.

The gym’s ultimate fortunes were tied to the fortunes of Detroit, however, and deindustrialization, neglect, mismanagement and criminality brought this once-great city and gym to its knees.

As the years passed and crises worsened, the squat, two-story, red brick building that housed the gym hastened its descent. Budget cuts forced the city to close the gym and recreation center in 2006. Thieves stripped the building of anything of value. The Kronk Recreation Center and the hallowed gym in its basement was vacated, abandoned, boarded up; a memory distorted by time and defaced by graffiti in a trash-strewn no man’s land on the outskirts of nowhere.

Firefighters received a dispatch call Saturday night at 9:25 p.m. When they arrived at the building at intersection of McGraw and Junction flames were burning their way through the second floor. Smoke was everywhere. It looked apocalyptic. It looked like Dresden.

“After trying to battle the way up there, the chief evacuated the building,” Deputy Fire Chief Dave Fornell told the Detroit News. “It was too dangerous to be inside. We surrounded the building and then the roof collapsed.”

Four hours later, even the ruins lay in ruins.

“We are listing the fire as suspicious,” said Fornell, “and it is an ongoing investigation.”

Whatever is left of the building, which was built in the 1920s, will likely be demolished.

“It’s just sad to see that people didn’t value this place like we did,” Hearns told the Detroit Free Press. “What this building brought for me was a chance at life. I got a chance to become somebody out of this building right here.

“To see it like this is pitiful—it’s really pitiful.”

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles

Leave a comment