NEW YORK (Feb. 23, 2009) — SHOWTIME caught up with legendary trainer Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward on Monday for his thoughts on this Friday’s International Boxing Federation (IBF) cruiserweight title fight pitting champion Tomasz Adamek against Steward’s pupil, the undefeated Johnathon Banks in the main event Friday, Feb. 27, on ShoBox: The New Generation (live at 11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
Steward, 64, recently lost one of his best friends and mentors, the renowned Walter Smith, who along with Steward ran the world famous Kronk Gym in Detroit that produced numerous world champions, including eight-time belt holder Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Duane Thomas, Milton McCrory and Jimmy Paul. Smith passed away last week at the age of 94.
Steward, who won a national Golden Gloves title at 118 pounds in 1963, is managing the 26-year-old Banks’ career outside of the ring while his nephew Javan “Sugar” Hill is handling the training duties. Banks (20-0, 14 KOs) is the IBF’s No. 8 ranked contender while Adamek (36-1, 24 KOs), of Jersey City, N.J., by way of Poland, will be making the first defense of his IBF title.
SHOWTIME: You are managing Johnathon’s career while your nephew is doing the bulk of the training. Why have you taken a special interest in managing Johnathon at this stage in your career?
STEWARD: “I’m very close to Johnathon and he actually lived with me for about three years until he recently moved out and got his own apartment. He came through our training program and he went through training camp as a teenager with Lennox Lewis and has been Wladimir Klitschko’s main sparring guy for the last four years. Johnathon actually leaves two weeks earlier than I do to get to Klitschko’s fights. That’s how much of a bond they have.”
SHOWTIME: How has Johnathon improved since he’s been working with Klitschko?
STEWARD: “Well he’s been sparring with Wladimir for a long time now and he’s never been hurt by him. That gives you a little bit of confidence. You see all these sparring partners who are physically big guys go in there and spar with Wladimir and they all get beat up so that makes you feel a little bit better. They go over strategies. He has just given Johnathon so much confidence. And it’s good to be around that type of work ethic. Wladimir is the hardest working fighter I’ve ever trained. Johnathon’s also learned some new exercises and training techniques with Wladimir.”
SHOWTIME: You’ve trained so many fighters. Who does Johnathon most remind you of?
STEWARD: “He’s a boxer-puncher. Nothing exceptional you would notice about him. He just gets in there and he’ll box and he’ll punch. But the thing I like about him recently is he is getting very good with his left jab. Wladimir eats meals with Johnathon and spends 24 hours a day with him so they’ve talked a lot about his jab. And Johnathon’s gotten really good at fighting on the inside when he has to which amazed me because he’s about 6-foot-2 and a half. I can’t really think of one fighter he reminds me of.”
SHOWTIME: Have you ever had a cruiserweight champion?
STEWARD: “Leon Spinks fought for the cruiserweight title once but he lost to (Dwight Muhammad) Qawi in Reno, Nev. (in 1986).”
SHOWTIME: With the economic struggles the nation and Detroit are currently experiencing, how important would this win be for a hometown fighter from Detroit like Johnathon?
STEWARD: “He would be the first of the homegrown Kronk kids to win a world title since 1985. I’ve talked to Johnathon about this and he’s using it as a big motivating factor. We’re talking almost 25 years. That’s when we had kids coming out of here like crazy. And Johnathon fits into that group. He knows if he wins this fight on Friday that he will be the guy and that when he goes to the mall there will be people who want to touch him and meet him.”
SHOWTIME: What type of fight do you expect Friday?
STEWARD: “Anytime you fight a guy like Adamek it’s going to be a tough fight. He’s got everyone behind him. It’s really an Adamek show and it will stay that way until the bell rings but then we’ll take over and it will become a Banks’ show then. But up until then it’s all about Adamek and he deserves that. He’s a great fighter with a great personality. We expect a tough and aggressive fight.”
In the 12-round ShoBox co-feature, Giovanni Lorenzo (26-1, 18 KOs), of New York City will be opposed by Dionisio Miranda (19-3-2, 17 KO’s) of Barranquilla, Colombia, in an IBF middleweight elimination bout.