Are you, I asked Javan “SugarHill” Steward, the frontrunner for Trainer of the Year 2020, on top of the world?
The man who did a seven-week stint with Tyson Fury, overseeing a pretty darn radical style shift (along with Fury’s cousin Andy Lee), paused and answered. He was at his typical tone and decibel level, mellow and measured.
The nephew of the Godfather of Kronk, Emanuel Steward, replied, “I’m the same old G.”
C’mon now, I pushed back, in good humor. Now everyone’s coming up to you, patting your back. You are being inundated with interview requests. Things have changed, right?
“I’m back home,” the Michigan resident stated. “I’m doing my regular stuff, I just got a couple steaks, some potatoes, asparagus.”
Naw, he didn’t get swarmed at the market, and no one offered to pay for the steak dinner in honor of the masterpiece of an outing he helped create on Feb. 22.
OK, OK, Steward isn’t get stalked by masses of casuals who’ve swarmed the sweet science after seeing “The Gypsy King” do Vegas like prime Elvis. But, has he at least upgraded his steak selection?
Negative; he digs the Delmonico ribeye, and has stuck with that after grooving on the T-bone and the Porterhouse as a younger man.
The Fury cornerman was happy to be back in his hood after relocating to Vegas, and settling in with Lee, with whom he lived for seven years when the Irishman was trained by Uncle Manny. Their project: hone with Fury what we saw him do at MGM, shift from a herky-jerky mover to a less-herky-but-still-somewhat-jerky aggressor, who acted every bit of his 273 pounds while grinding down a consummate sniper, who was used to seeing targets run for cover.
“I’m happy not getting the attention,” the continuation of the Kronk ideology told me. And yes, he knows, there will be some extra attention, and people maybe saying hello at the urinal, or whatever.
“Am I ready for it? I was watching Emanuel do this forever, so I’m pretty much aware of what’s gonna happen. I like the way he did it, I just wanna stay the same.”
He’s ready, though, if people start acting different or weird. Because of Steward’s being the recipient of this buzz blast, he won’t be afraid to shift into another lane.
OK, so how did it feel? Did it feel like he pictured in his head, after those decades soaking up the sun’s ray given off by the magnetic Emanuel?
“It was a sensational feeling, like I said the fight would be. The fight was sensational. And that’s because of what it was, what it meant for me, because of what Emanuel started.”
It was a bit sweeter, maybe, because pretty much everyone was thinking Wilder was going to maintain the momentum gained in that rubout of Luis Ortiz; because people like me wondered hard if switching trainers late in the game wasn’t an indication of instability.
“Because nobody expected that pillow fist to knock him out!”
I mea culpa’d, admitting that I think I overthought matters, and looked for reasons why Fury would lose rather than why Wilder might not win.
“You just shoulda thought there were two geniuses over there,” he said, chuckling hard, tongue planted in cheek.
Yeah, all the things that were said in the lead-in, about what Fury would weigh, and how he’d fight — we were on the level, he noted.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said, and he knew that would be the case. Last Tuesday, we talked, and Steward said we’d all have to see on Saturday if the talk was just that, or Fury would walk the path he promised.
I went further, admitting even more so how I’d gotten it wrong. I told SugarHill about my hit on the Diehards Radio Show with Anthony Pepe, and how I’d said that boxing just ain’t what it used to be, that it won’t get back there until the next Mike Tyson-type enters that gym and rises the ranks.
Little did I grasp, another Tyson had entered the gym and risen the ranks, and yeah, it’s quite possible that boxing has a superstar to lift it one or two notches as an entertainement attraction.
“In my eyes, Tyson Fury is the new big superstar in boxing,” Steward declared. That’s because he’s a heavyweight, and there are the heavyweights, and then there are all the other weight classes.
“The big boys is the better boys,” the trainer said.
Emanuel was known more for lighter weight guys. Tommy Hearns could crack like a heavy, but later down his road, he took Wladimir Klitschko under his wing, and did a reconstruction job.
Did SugarHill find a quiet moment at any point when he addressed Emanuel?
“My quiet moment was in the ring, while all the commotion was going on. I had some tears. I wasn’t afraid to show it, I now know, it doesn’t matter. A lot of people hide their emotions and don’t wanna look weak. But my emotions were heavy with Emanuel.”
This all hasn’t been a roller coaster for Steward, because he truly did believe that Fury would do what he said he would. That meant he started out not on a high, but camp spirits were high, with cousin Andy and Fury and him adding bits and pieces, tinkering and perfecting.
But on Monday, another chapter was added, or maybe just a few pages. SugarHill heard what Wilder had told Kevin Iole and Lance Pugmire, that his legs had been sapped by the weight of the robot costume he put on for his ring work. And also that the loser was probably going to dismiss Mark Breland from his team, for insubordination, in the form of disobeying Wilder’s desire to go out on his shield, at all costs. Should it go without saying that includes dying?
“That’s Deontay’s problem,” Steward said. “Before today, that wasn’t what he said. Now, people had enough time to think of (reasons why he lost). We were talking, Mike, about over-thinking before. I bet someone brought this to his attention. He knows the truth, inside him.”
We touched on the handling of Breland’s towel toss. Steward said he flashed back to pulling the plug on Anthony Dirrell, cut bad while fighting David Benavidez.
“I was criticized, not by everybody,” he said, empathizing with Breland. “My job as the trainer is the fighter’s safety. We train to win, to be the best, but also, I know when my fighter has had enough, because I know my fighter.”
Steward isn’t a trash talker, so he wasn’t going to go put Wilder on blast for the costume caper, the blame game he engaged in Monday.
“I don’t know how heavy the outfit was, but I do recall, I did watch a little video of him in camp; he had a backpack on, running up a mountain or hill. I don’t know how heavy the pack was, either,” the tutor continued. “It could’ve been he weighed too much, so with that, and the costume...”
Steward has a sly sense of humor, there was some low key sarcasm in effect. Basically, there could be 96 excuses, and really only Wilder knows deep down what’s truth and what is defense mechanism stuff.
Is SugarHill sort of insinuating that it don’t matter, his guy has Deontay’s number, period?
“I would naturally put my money on Fury. I strongly believe in my fighter over Wilder. What was shown in this fight, I can only imagine what we can do working together in the future. Seven weeks was it? It wasn’t enough time. And we heard it all — ‘turmoil in camp,’ ‘hurt ankle,’ ‘the cut opened in camp,’ all that. And Tyson said he trained that chin with the oral sex. Kudos to the oral sex! Mike, he’s only going to get better. That was just a smidgen of what he can be. There’s always room for improvement!”
He paused, drifted slightly. “It’s ironic, it was December (2018), I was in the corner of Adonis Stevenson, and there were no signs he was hurting, and then he got hit, and then he was in a coma. And through blessings, prayers, God, and technology, Adonis is alive. Man, some don’t make it out of there. There is a chance of dying. People say, ‘I wanna go out on my shield!’ What is that worth? Is it worth it to ‘go out on your shield?’ So they can say, ‘he went out on his shield?’”
Wilder has eight kids. I can marvel at his “bravery,” but there is a fine line between bravery and recklessness, and I can’t speak for them all, but I’m guessing those kids would rather dad live to fight another day. And hug them, and see them graduate, and marry, and all that down the line stuff. Better to be present than a dead legend, that’s my take.
But yes, that’s Wilder’s choice to make, and if he wants to punish Breland for “breaking a law” to maybe save his life, then that’s on him, and for him to ponder moving forward. My guess is that some day, maybe even real soon, he gets it, that Mark Breland deserves a hug and a bonus, instead of dismissal.
“I was thinking as I looked at Anthony (Dirrell),” Steward said. “He’s got three kids, what if he loses an eye? You gotta give that person a chance to live! Get stitched, and have a longer future in boxing.”
Now, looking forward; does SugarHill want a third fight? Or something else, maybe the biggest bout the UK has ever had, Fury vs Anthony Joshua?
“Deontay has 30 days to exercise the clause, in post-fight interviews they said they’re definitely gonna do it, but that was Shelly (Finkel) and Jay (Deas). All I can do is listen. Oh, and if we listen long enough, something else (another excuse) might come up. It was the leg, then the outfit, then Breland’s fault. H says if it had gone on longer, he might have landed that big right hand. Tyson prevented that opportunity for seven rounds, he didn’t throw it. I want the third one if Fury and the team wants it. We train to win, that’s it. You just win, and everything else falls into place, that was a Manny saying.”
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