|How I Remember Manny
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Oct 31, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
It was July 4th of 1985 when ESPN ran their light welterweight
tournament at Resorts International in Atlantic City, NJ. This writer
was an advisor for Philadelphia’s Bruce “Sugar” Williams, 17-1-1 (5),
when I entered him into the tournament through Top Rank’s matchmaker
I had promoted a pair of shows in 1982
that I had Williams on. One was the first professional show in the
Pocono Mountains of PA at Caesars Paradise Stream at Mt. Pocono and
another at Easton H.S. The only loss Williams suffered up until the
tournament was to future IBF lightweight champion Harry Arroyo and a
draw with future WBA lightweight champ Livingston Bramble.
was put in with the tournament favorite Glenn Smith, 14-2 (8), who had
stopped Detroit’s Kronk fighter Rodney “The Rock” Trusel, 17-1-1,
(identical record of Williams) in his previous fight.
would stop Smith in the 8th and final round to move into the semi-final
of the tournament. In the other bracket Manny Steward had Joe Johnson
7-0 (5) against Camden, NJ, fighter Ramon Santana, 12-3 (10), who
stopped Johnson in the 3rd round. Williams would then meet Santana
With Williams in camp with WBC light welter
champ Billy Costello who was preparing for a title defense I had to get a
trainer to work the corner of Williams for the Santana fight and called
Prentice Byrd, a spokesman for the Kronk team asking if Steward would
be interested in working the corner. To my surprise he agreed to it at
his expense. He would later tell me that Williams had fought his
fighter Tommy “The Hit Man” Hearns in the amateurs and liked
Williams. It seemed we were all set.
I had been to the
Pocono’s watching Williams. He had a problem with a shoulder and I met a
woman whose family owned a greeting card business on the Main Line
outside of Philadelphia who did reflexology and by working on Williams
feet gave temporary relief to his shoulder pain.
approached me and said “Bruce is having sex with the girl who works
here. I’m now beating the shit out of him.” I approach the soft
spoken nice guy Williams who turned on me. I called Byrd up and told
him what happened and that Steward didn’t have to come in. Bryd called
back and said Steward said he would come in anyway but wouldn’t get
there until the day of the fight like he had previously mentioned. I
was surprised and very impressed with a man who “kept his word”.
arrived and Williams was no longer the mobile boxer he was when I had
him in the previous 3 fights. He spent most of the fight on the ropes
due to his “lack of legs” when the final bell for the tenth round
sounded and the fight was declared “a draw”. The judges had it 5-4-1
Williams, 5-5 and 6-3-1 Santana. This meant they would have to go to an
extra round being it was a tournament. Even though I thought Williams
edged Santana over 10 rounds I knew he was “spent” and had little chance
going another round with Santana.
This was for the
Eastern ESPN title with the winner getting Ollenberger on October
30th. Santana took the 11th round and the right to meet Ollenberger
whom he would defeat for the ESPN title. If Williams hadn’t “screwed”
himself out of his normal conditioning for the Santana fight with less
than a week before he would have easily defeated Ollenberger in my
opinion for the title.
Steward asked both Williams and I
to fly back to his house in MI and have Williams be prepared to
stay. He would tell us when back there he would bring Williams in to
work with his fighter Jimmy Paul the IBF lightweight champ and get
Williams some fights. I remember Steward showing me a picture of him
when he was on an amateur team with Hedgemon Lewis a future NYSAC
welterweight champion whom when I started writing I did a story on. He
was the “Ray Leonard” style-wise before Leonard arrived.
would get 3 wins out of Williams before his shoulder finally gave out
being stopped in 6 rounds in May of 1986 to Ozzie O’Neal.
got away from boxing for years and when I returned I got in touch with
Steward and was surprised he still remembered me. “This is Ken Hissner
from outside of Philly” I would always say. I remember in Dickson City,
PA, in September of 2007 approaching Steward who had fighters in camp
at that site. Virgil Hill was also there. We talked about the past
ESPN tourney, Lewis and even another great soft spoken Detroit legend
In 2007 I started writing and whenever I
did something pertaining to Kronk boxing I called Steward. One of those
boxers was WBC welterweight champ Milt “Ice Man” McCrory and WBA
lightweight champ Hilmer Kenty. “I told Kenty I didn’t want him to go
through with the fight because he had a bad cold,” said Steward. I
remember Steward saying “that one fight Sean O’Grady had defeating Kenty
made his career”! Kenty joined Kronk in his 6th fight. “Manny would
be the first one in the gym and the last one to leave,” said Kenty.
October 2010 I was working on “Was Ray Leonard A Better Amateur or
Professional?” I called Steward and was surprised he agreed with
me. Only difference was he knew why! “Ray had bad hands by the time he
got to the professional ranks. He wasn’t the puncher he was in the
amateurs,” said Steward.
I would call Steward over the
years and “pick his brain” on boxing. I was always afraid he would get
tired of me calling but he was always very polite and full of
information. In January of 2011 I contacted Steward and Joe
Clough. The latter was in Thailand working with amateurs there. He
trained so many famous boxers like Ray Seales, Rocky Lockridge, Johnny
Bumphus, Leo Randolph and Davey Armstrong. He also coached the 1983 Pan
Am team. He knew both teams well. I asked both to join me in judging
1976 vs 1984 Olympic teams. Both obliged and I have to say I had a ball
talking to both. Steward had Frank Tate and Steve McCrory who were
both Olympians in 1984.
In early 2012 I approached
Steward when he was off camera working for HBO at a show in Atlantic
City, NJ. He would always give me the time. He was one of the greatest
trainers of all time. He had the most famous boxing club in Kronk. He
was one of the few trainers who was also a great manager. “Tommy
Hearns made me a millionaire,” said Steward.
took the job at HBO he was the one we boxing people could relate to. “I
remember when Larry Merchant asked Oscar De La Hoya after his loss to
Mayweather “why did you stop throwing your jab after the seventh
round?” De La Hoya replied “it sure was working wasn’t it
Larry?” Steward remarked “that wasn’t a very good answer for someone
who has been around as long as Oscar.” He hit the nail on the head. Up
4-3 and stop throwing your most effective punch? Steward always did it
in a low voice but didn’t pull any punches. He was one of the best at
ringside since Gil Clancy in my opinion.
When we lost
the legendary trainer Cus D’Amato who I knew well it was a great loss to
boxing. Then, legendary Angelo Dundee. Now the man who built the
“Kronk Gym” has joined him. It’s boxing’s loss and heaven’s gain!
E-mail questions, comments to Ken Hissner
Stay up to date on all the
latest and breaking news: Doghouse Boxing's news wire
Visit the IMPROVED Doghouse Boxing Forums (Login with your Facebook or Twitter account - Now Mobile, Ipad, Blackberry, Android & YouTube Friendly) DogPound
NEW: Follow Doghouse Boxing on FaceBook! For more Boxing News 24/7 and so much more... visit our homepage now!
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing Inc. 1998-2012