World-famous Kronk Gym destroyed by suspicious fire in Detroit

Kronk Gym. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Tune into the “Muckraker Report” on 910AM the Superstation from 11 a.m. to noon Monday to hear more about the fire and Kronk Gym. 

Detroit’s Kronk Gym, the storied and world-renowned boxing powerhouse that produced more than 30 world champions, most notably Tommy Hearns, was destroyed by a suspicious fire Saturday night.

The gym was in the basement of the long-abandoned Kronk Recreation Center, a squat, two-story building on a neglected stretch of the city’s west side at McGraw and Junction.

Firefighters arrived at 9:30 p.m. to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the second floor of the brick, graffiti-strewn building. Firefighters tried to battle the fire from inside the building but they didn’t have a chance and were forced to exit.

Fire destroyed Kronk Gym in Detroit. Photo via Detroit Fire Department.

Flames tore through the roof and heavily damaged the legendary gym in the basement. The building likely will be demolished. 

A firefighter suffered minor injuries and was taken to the hospital.

Legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, who died in October 2012, transformed the dingy basement of the city’s first recreation center into a boxing powerhouse by the 1980s, producing more than 30 world champions, 50 amateur champions and three Olympic gold medalists.

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But budget cuts forced the city to close the gym and recreation center in 2006. Efforts to reopen the gym were stymied when thieves stole copper piping. 

A year before his death, Steward told me he wanted nothing more than to revive the gym and give troubled Detroit children a place to find hope and purpose. Hearns echoed those sentiments a few days after his long-time trainer and friend died.

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But like many famous landmarks in Detroit, the building crumbled under neglect and was surrounded by trash and decay. Scrappers stripped the building of everything of value, and graffiti covered the interior and exterior. Discarded sofas, tires and trash were strewn across the property, which was overgrown with long grass and weeds.

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Until the gym closed in 2006, it primarily nurtured underprivileged Detroiters.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.