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Detroit — The  Kronk Gym, the world-renowned boxing gym that produced champions like Tommy Hearns, was destroyed by fire Saturday night. 

Deputy Fire Chief Dave Fornell said Sunday that dispatch received a call at 9:25 p.m. and when firefighters arrived at the building at McGraw and Junction high flames were reaching out of the second floor. 

"After trying to battle the way up there, the chief evacuated the building. It was too dangerous to be inside," Fornell said. "We surrounded the building and then the roof collapsed."

Fornell said crews battled the fire for four hours and one firefighter injured his ankle and was transported to a hospital. 

"We are listing the fire as suspicious and it is an ongoing investigation," Fornell said. 

The building, built in 1920's, was vacant at the time of the fire. The gym, founded by the late Emanuel Steward, made the city an international hub of boxing. The gym closed in 2006 and relocated to its current home at 9520 Mettetal.

Steward trained 41 world champion fighters throughout his career, most notably Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and Hearns, all who called the Kronk Gym home. 

Sylvia Steward-Williams, Steward's daughter who carries on his legacy running the gym now on Mettetal, said she and her family were devastated by loss of the old building.

"My father's heart lived in that gym. He'd still pay for the (property) even after we moved out because his heart was so much with those kids who wanted that space to train," Steward-Williams said. "We never expected this. It's devastating, especially since my father passed in October (2012)."

Javan Sugarhill Steward, Emanuel Steward's nephew, helped revive Kronk Gym with his cousin and is now a training advisor. He heard of the fire from news reports and was on his way over to the building to confirm if it was true.

"I can't believe it. The original building was closed by the city in 2006. After it closed, we moved around from location to location and now we are training in the basement of a church, so we've always been reminiscent of the old building."

The gym is still training world-renowned boxers and is own by the family. 

"We have 15 amateur fighters and professional competitors, but we have a hard time getting qualified trainers in to keep up with the demand," Steward-Williams said.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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