SugarHill Steward, formerly known as Javan ‘Sugar’ Hill, is the current trainer of WBC and lineal world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
Born in 1975 in Detroit, he is the nephew of legendary Detroit trainer Emanuel Steward and SugarHill was instrumental in helping his late uncle revive the fortunes of the mythical Kronk gym in the late 1990s. SugarHill changed his name in 2019 to honour the Hall-of-Fame trainer, who he was particularly close to throughout his life. For much of his youth Hill stayed in Steward’s home, absorbing Manny’s rich boxing knowledge and fistic philosophy like a sponge.
The original Kronk Gym in Detroit, Michigan, was the legendary facility where brilliant trainer Steward developed a long line of world-class boxers including the great Tommy Hearns, and it wasn’t long before SugarHill was helping his uncle out. He became part of the backroom team at the Kronk, but also spent 12 years working for the Detroit police.
In 2007 he took early retirement as his own boxing commitments increased, and he worked with world champions such as Adonis Stevenson, and Anthony and Andre Dirrell before eventually finding fame with Fury.
Fury shocked the boxing world at the end of 2019 by splitting from trainer Ben Davison and appointing Steward as his replacement ahead of his February 2020 rematch with Deontay Wilder.
The Gypsy King’s dominant seventh-round stoppage of Wilder – masterminded by SugarHill and former Kronk fighter Andy Lee – catapulted the 46-year-old into the spotlight.
The pair are now part of Fury’s small but trusted fight team and have the remit of recreating the Kronk spirit during camps for the flamboyant Fury.
SugarHill and Lee are currently preparing their charge for a proposed heavyweight unification showdown against Anthony Joshua later this year.
Sugar Hill Steward & Tyson Fury: the dream team
In the summer of 2010, a 21-year-old Fury showed up unannounced at the Kronk gym and demanded an audience with Emanuel Steward. “Who are you?” the 6ft 9’ visitor was asked. “I’m the next heavyweight champion of the world,” Fury is reported to have said.
The Gypsy King massively impressed the legendary trainer, to the point Manny took him into his home for the duration of his three-week stay.
It was during this time that Manny correctly predicted that he would go on to reign as heavyweight champion after his then charge Wladimir Klitschko, who at that stage was IBF, WBO and IBO world champion. Fury also first met SugarHill around this time.
The pair kept in touch but their careers took them on different paths, until two months before Fury’s anticipated rematch with WBC world champion Wilder.
Fury (30-0-1) split with head trainer Ben Davison, a move Davison initially announced on social media on December 15, 2019. Shortly after this, Fury himself made a post of his own, insisting he was “getting the old team back up and running” – a nod to returning to his Kronk roots – while confirming SugarHill as his new head coach.
It was a massive gamble, as Davison is widely credited as the man who lit a fire back under a hugely overweight and massively demotivated Fury after his destructive near three-year absence from the sport following his victory over Klitschko in Germany. The pair never lost a fight together, but Davison came in for some criticism (from Fury’s own father John among others) for how the fighter looked and performed against Otto Wallin in September 2019.
Andy Lee was also brought in, and despite the short time together Fury produced the performance of a lifetime as he battered Wilder into TKO submission at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Sugar Hill Steward net worth
A profoundly private man, there are precious few estimates in the public domain regarding SugarHill’s actual net worth but one would imagine this to be in the seven-figure ballpark.
SugarHill will have earned well while working with men such as Adonis Stevenson and ‘Prince’ Charles Martin, but his pay grade will have increased astronomically due to his involvement in the Wilder II fight.
Per the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the contractually guaranteed purses for Wilder and Fury were both set at $5 million. However when additional earnings from pay-per-view buys were added on top of that both fighters will have cleared more than $25 million.
The Joshua-Fury fight will earn both protagonists anything between $70million and $100million (£73.1m) according to estimated reports, and as head trainer for Fury, whatever percentage SugarHill has agreed will obviously make him a very wealthy man indeed.
Sugar Hill Steward family: boxing royalty
Like his financial affairs, SugarHill keeps his personal relationships out of the public eye, but is proud to speak about his kinship with Emanuel Steward.
Manny, who was born in West Virginia in 1944, later moved to Detroit when his parents divorced. He went on to become one of the most successful boxing trainers and managers of the 20th Century. As an amateur fighter himself Manny had run up a hugely impressive record of 94-3, which culminated in a 1963 National Golden Gloves title success.
Steward, who passed away in 2012 due to complications following surgery for the stomach disorder of diverticulosis, always professed that the real art of training was turning raw novices into skilled amateurs. This was how he originally made his name, and it wasn’t long before the Kronk powerhouse was born.
Sugar Hill Steward and the Kronk Gym
The original Kronk Gym, at 5555 McGraw Street on Detroit’s west side, was a basic, Spartan facility. It eventually achieved worldwide notoriety for one reason: In its basement was one of the finest boxing academies ever created.
Manny Steward, an electrician by trade, built an amateur boxing dynasty in that basement.
Throughout his life, Steward maintained that Bernard ‘Superbad’ Mays was the finest amateur he ever saw. “He was the most talented Kronk boxer of all,” Steward said.
“He was like a legend, really.” Sadly, Mays developed a serious alcohol dependency while still a teenager which blighted his pro career. However, those coming up behind ‘Superbad’ fared much better.
In 1980, Hilmer Kenty became Steward’s first world champion when he dominated Ernesto Espana, stopping him in the fourth round to win the WBA lightweight crown. A mere five months later future Hall-of-Famer Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearns stopped Pipino Cuevas in two astonishing rounds to become Steward’s second world champion.
Manny would be propelled into the limelight with Hearns, whose frightening blend of, power speed and classic punching technique made him must-see TV for fight fans during the 1980s.The Kronk’s reputation was set, and champions from across the world landed in the ‘Motor City’ as Steward’s reputation grew.
However as Manny became the sport’s most prominent trainer in the 1990s, his commitments often took him away from Detroit for long stretches to train legends such as Lennox Lewis, Naseem Hamed, Evander Holyfield, Klitschko and others. He also served as a member of HBO’s illustrious boxing team, and his Kronk gym needed staff to keep the home fires burning.
Manny’s two most trusted lieutenants were Johnathon Banks and SugarHill. After the passing of Steward, Banks assumed the role of head trainer of heavyweight world champion Klitschko and he was in the corner for his fights with Fury and Joshua.
Banks is still involved at the top level and now trains former undisputed middleweight ruler Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin. However if Fury can beat Joshua and establish himself as the greatest heavyweight fighter of his era with SugarHill in his corner, it would be the most fitting and poignant posthumous tribute to Manny imaginable.