Sadly, Emanuel Steward, the famed boxing trainer, recently died after a short illness at the age of 68.
And I've got a long time friend named Dickie that earlier today related a story to yours truly about a chance encounter with the same Emanuel Steward many years ago. So this one's personal.
Old school sports fans in Michigan might remember that once upon a time, back in the early 1980's, there was such a thing called the USFL (United States Football League) and the Michigan Panthers were one of the teams. A guy named Bobby Hebert (pronounced ay-bear) was their QB and they had a former hot-shot receiver from the Univ of Mich named Anthony Carter.
At the time, Emanuel Steward was in charge of the Kronk gym in Detroit, and he was busy churning out world-class boxers that would win many championships, the most notable likely being Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns. In subsequent years, Steward's experience and expertise were coveted by others and would lead him far away from his beloved Kronk; he would be found in the corners of several other very famous fighters for the next few decades, until his untimely passing.
But this is about 1983.
I don't know for sure what Dickie was doing back then, but for some reason, he and a couple buds made a last second decison to drive to Denver for the USFL title game, which would pit the Michigan Panthers against the Philadelphia Stars in Mile High Stadium. As it turned out, the Panthers would win that game and become USFL champions. It also turned out that driving from the Detroit area to Denver, starting off a day and a half before game time means you've got to do it quick. So Dickey got a speeding ticket in Nebraska.
That's no big deal. Even getting to the game on time and scoring last second tickets isn't particularly notable. But something else is......
Somewhere along the line, Dickie found a way to be in the private company of the Michigan Panther cheerleaders. Now not just any dude can pull THAT one off. Dickie is a man of many talents, and I dare say being a smooth talking devil sometimes is high on the list.
But guess who was also in the same room? Emanuel Steward. He was playfully giving the cheerleaders boxing lessons. So Dickie and Emanuel got to know each other a little bit. Pretty cool the way it worked out back then.
The USFL died after the following year, likely because the mighty NFL had wearied of that particular stepchild's sassiness, and in their own ways sent it off to a foster home that didn't even exist.
Now Emanuel Steward is gone as well. May he rest in peace.
We'll never know for sure what Emanuel thought of him, and those cheerleaders are probably grandmas by now, but Dickie is still very much alive, semi-well, and out and about. One never knows where he may pop up at.
Hey girls. If a handsome rascal in a NASCAR jacket and baseball cap approaches you with a great line -- beware. It might be him. Remember, during Emanuel's tenure as a boxing guru, a ounce here or there could make the difference as to whether a fighter was at the required weight to qualify for a bout. Perhaps Dickie picked up on that tactic all those years ago out in Denver. Reliable sources have it that he is not only picky about his meat these days -- but measures it right down to the ounce, as well.