Steward’s Spirit Felt by Both Dawson, Stevenson

by Kieran Mulvaney

When Chad Dawson and Adonis Stevenson meet in Montreal on HBO Boxing After Dark on Saturday night, it will be a clash of two southpaws with different styles. Defending light-heavyweight titlist Dawson is a technician, a boxer-puncher with emphasis on the boxer; Stevenson is an action fighter with knockout power. But aside from their profession, their favored hand and their weight class, they have one other thing in common: As Eric Raskin notes in the fight overview on HBO.com, both have been trained by Emanuel Steward, whose insight for so long elucidated the sport for fans and clarified strategy and tactics for fighters.

Dawson turned to Steward at the end of 2010, after losing his light-heavyweight belt to Jean Pascal.

"At this stage of my career, I'm only going to work with fighters who can achieve greatness, and I see greatness in Chad Dawson," Steward enthused at the time. "Chad Dawson will regain his light heavyweight title and perhaps add titles in the super middleweight and cruiserweight divisions. He is that talented."

The first step in Dawson’s recovery from the Pascal loss was a meeting with Adrian Diaconu in May 2011. Steward was in the corner for that clash; during the build-up to it, he spoke optimistically of how his new charge, at times infamously diffident in the ring, was becoming imbued with the spirit of his most famous pupil. "Chad is very talented. He just has to remain focused and aggressive," Steward said. "He can be a little too laid back. He trained at the Kronk Gym. He's picked up a bit of Tommy Hearns' aggression."

Their first fight together yielded the desired victory, after which boxer and trainer pivoted toward a matchup with new light-heavyweight kingpin Bernard Hopkins, who had defeated Pascal on the same card as Dawson’s win over Diaconu. But with the clash just a few weeks away, the two men parted company, with Dawson apparently preferring to train in the Poconos mountains rather than travel back to Detroit and the Kronk.

So be it; such things happen often in boxing. Steward had helped Dawson get back on track, and the boxer would ultimately defeat Hopkins in the biggest win of his career. Steward continued with his ringside work for HBO and as a trainer; in early 2012, he joined forces with a hard-hitting super-middleweight about whom he could not have been more enthusiastic. His name was Adonis Stevenson.

"I've had many world champions but his punching power and intensity is not normal. I'm very excited about Adonis and I can't see any 168-pounder not having a very tough time against him," he raved. Stevenson’s preparation at the Kronk for a scheduled 12-rounder against Jesus Gonzales was "phenomenal": Of all the champions to have trained at the famous gym, he said, "Adonis has created the most excitement."

Stevenson destroyed Gonzales inside a round; two months later, in April, he needed only two rounds to knock out Noe Gonzalez.

Stevenson fought again last October, but this time Steward could not be in his corner. He had been taken seriously ill and been hospitalized; two weeks after Stevenson defeated Don George by TKO, Steward died.

Stevenson, who said Steward was "like a father" to him, said recently that, "I didn’t want to believe he was gone and passed away."

In that, he is far from alone. Almost eight months later, Steward’s passing still hurts and his absence – his knowledge, his enthusiasm, his warmth – is missed around boxing on a daily basis. But his influence lives on, and it will find expression on Saturday when two men meet each other in the ring, each of them looking to deploy skills and techniques that Emanuel Steward taught them.

Related: Inside HBO Boxing remembers Manny Steward.