Demolition begins on legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — The original home of the Kronk Gym, the world-renowned training center that produced such boxing champions as Tommy "The Hitman" Hearns, began undergoing demolition this week on the city's west side. 

The building of Kronk Gym demolished Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

The building that first housed the gym, at McGraw and Junction, was built in the 1920s. The gym, founded by Emanuel Steward, made the city an international hub of boxing. It 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 of whom called the Kronk Gym home. Steward died in October 2012. 

The removal will cost the city $239,000, and city officials said there are no redevelopment plans for the site. 

The building was destroyed in a large fire on Oct. 7, 2017. By the time firefighters arrived, flames reached the second floor. It took four hours to extinguish the blaze, said Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell.

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

On Aug. 11, a small fire sparked again in the rear of the building. The building was vacant during both fires. 

Sylvia Steward-Williams, Steward's daughter who carries on his legacy running the gym now on Mettetal, said she was not aware the building would be torn down.

"That was our history, that was our life," she said. "We're getting ready to fly out to a boxing expo in Vegas tomorrow, but I have to go there and see it."

Steward-Williams said she had been going to the gym since 1970, when her father started training boxers there. 

"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," she said.

Demolition on the Kronk Gym began Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018.

Mark Hall drove by the site Thursday and saw a few workers and a demolition crane. He said he had to stop and take a photo "because it’s just an amazing historic site."

"Very disappointing, the historic buildings make Detroit a unique place, and this building had so much history in it, it's a shame to lose it," said Hall, 22. "We lose our identity when we lose stuff like this. I wish it could have been saved like so many other buildings are being saved right now."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_