JOSH KATZENSTEIN,The Detroit News
DETROIT (AP) — In boxing circles, the legendary Kronk Gym — producer of more than 30 world champions — is synonymous with Detroit.
But after more than 90 years, the gym could be moving outside the city limits.
Hall of Fame boxing trainer Emanuel Steward, owner of the current gym said he wants to move to Southfield, where he will have a bigger space that’s more accessible to an increasing number of suburban youth fighters.
The city closed the original Kronk Recreation Center — a hot, sweaty basement gym — on the west side after vandals stole its copper piping in 2006. Although Kronk has been a haven for Detroit’s youths for decades, Steward said it’s time to move.
“It’s not an inner-city crowd anymore. It’s a lot of suburban kids,” Steward said, naming Dearborn and Sterling Heights as common homes of fighters.
Steward, 68, said a lot of black youths in Detroit have become more interested in basketball and football.
The Kronk Gym foundation is raising funds to buy and renovate a 9,000-square-foot building north of Detroit. Steward said the cost will be about $500,000.
The new facility could hold 400 people for amateur nights.
Steward also wants to add three rings, new exercise equipment and banners outside the building displaying past Kronk champions, including Hilmer Kenty, Lennox Lewis and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns.
The gym had a temporary stay in a former Gold’s Gym recreational center in Dearborn.
The current gym in a west side Detroit storefront has only one ring held together with duct tape, three heavy bags and one speed bag.
There are no showers or locker rooms. The free weights, treadmill and two stationary bicycles all are old.
“This gym is plain, stinky, funky; it’s old school as we call it,” Steward said.
Only about 30 percent of the current amateurs are black, as the gym welcomes more non-black fighters with Eastern European, Mexican and Middle Eastern origins, some of whom Steward said come from wealthy families who relate to current professional fighters. Many of the Detroit youths come to the gym to use it as a recreation center because the city has closed several in recent years, Steward added.
TV boxing commentator Jim Lampley said the old gym represented the blue-collar backbone of the city.
“To have that kind of place … leave is unfortunately another dramatic loss for Detroit,” Lampley said.
Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence said she can’t wait for the new Kronk to open.
“We just need places for young people to go and engage in a sport and have that guidance in a safe environment,” Lawrence said.
Steward wants to begin holding amateur fight nights at Metro Detroit convention centers that he thinks could raise funds and awareness for the gym.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)