Kronk Gym Demolished

By Robert Ecksel on September 13, 2018
Kronk Gym Demolished
The late Emanuel Steward put Kronk Gym and Detroit boxing on the map. (Mark Hall)

Today’s demolition of Kronk Gym signals the sad end of an era which in many ways seconds the sad end of Detroit…

Boxing elicits many emotions, but sentimentality isn’t among them. But today’s demolition of Kronk Gym, after a fire gutted the building where the gym was housed a year ago, signals the sad end of an era which in many ways seconds the sad end of the Motor City.

The Kronk Recreation Center, a squat, two-story, red brink building located at 5555 McGraw Street on Detroit’s west side, was built in 1921 and served the community in which it stood and as intended. But it was the modest gym in the basement which was transformed by Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who died in 2012, which put the building and Detroit boxing on the map.

As much a father figure as trainer of distinction, Steward exposed hundreds of youngsters to the charms of the sweet science over the years and 30 world champions passed through the doors of the gym on their journey toward adulthoods of significance.

Of the many boys who grew into men who eventually became world boxing champions, none is as distinguished as Thomas Hearns, the first fighter in history to win world titles in five divisions.

“This was a safe haven for me,” said Hearns. “What this building brought for me was a chance at life. I got a chance to become somebody out of this building right here.”

Detroit historian and author Ken Coleman also feels the loss: “By the mid to late 1970s, Emanuel Steward really used the gym as a home base to help develop international talent like Hilmer Kenty, Thomas Hearns, obviously, Steve McCrory, but really the gym and its legendary status had to do with Steward’s investment in not only those young men but the building itself and the institution.”

It’s not the first time hallowed ground became an empty lot, nor will it be the last.

“It’s just sad to see that people didn’t value this place like we did,” Hearns said. “To see it like this is pitiful—it’s really pitiful.”

Special thanks to the Detroit Free Press.

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