The fabled Kronk Boxing Gym, once home to dozens of world champion prize fighters and the “King of Kronk” himself, legendary trainer Emanuel Steward, burned to the ground on Detroit’s westside over the weekend, ending almost a century standing at the corner of McGraw and Junction. Located inside the basement of what was the Kronk Recreational Center, the gym and its inhabitants shot to world prominence in the last vestiges of boxing’s golden era in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing adulation and iconic prestige to the tiny, cramped sweat box responsible for 41 championship belts under Steward’s guidance.

The fanfare surrounding activity at the gym and those training there back in the day also attracted the interest of federal law enforcement. The feds thought the drug dealers were plying their trade in conjunction with some of the fighters as well as possibly using them and Steward himself to help launder their illegal proceeds, per sources and FBI files. While Steward came away from the investigation unscathed, three of his boxers didn’t fare as well. One remains behinds bars to this very day, a non-violent drug offender who could wind up spending the rest of his life in prison.

Steward died in 2012 and the recreation center and gym haven’t been operational in over a decade. Authorities speculate arson was involved in the fire that torched the building back on Saturday. The Kronk was the city of Detroit’s first publically-funded rec center, opened in 1920 in the wake of World War I ending.

Following a multi-year probe in conjunction between the FBI, DEA and IRS, Kronk fighters Darrell Chambers, Donald (The Lone Star Cobra) Curry and William (Stanley the Steamer) Longstreet were each indicted for narcotics trafficking in May 1994. Longstreet turned witness for the government and testified at the 1995 trial. Curry, a welterweight world champion, was found not guilty. Chambers, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy and childhood friends with Kronk’s favorite son Tommy (The Hitman) Hearns, wound up being convicted and hasn’t seen the light of day since.

Currently retired, Hearns, like Steward, an unsuccessful target of the federal inquiry, according to FBI records, won five different world titles in five different weight classes and was known to consort with local Detroit underworld figures. Steward and Hearns were in attendance at Chambers and Curry’s trial.

In late 1992, the DEA had a notorious and controversial paid informant named Andrew Chambers (no relation to Darrell) infiltrate the Kronk Gym drug organization. Chambers was paid a whopping $4,000,000 and testified in more than 300 cases for the government. The DEA suspended his use as an informant in 2000 when it was discovered he perjured himself in court testimony on 16 separate occasions. As of 2013, Andrew Chambers was back working the DEA per published reports.

A pair of DEA agents testified at Darrell Chambers’ January 1995 trial that they followed the two Chambers, Donald Curry and James Longstreet to the Bahamas in September 1992 and watched the boxers negotiate a half-million dollar cocaine deal. Only $225,000 of the deal was completed, but the government felt it had enough evidence to bring a case.

After Curry’s acquittal, he fought for another two years, retiring from the ring in 1997 with a 34-6 record. Longstreeet pled guilty to the charges as a requirement of his plea deal and did three years in prison. His final record in the ring was 22-3.

Turning pro in 1981, Chambers, a born-and-bred eastside Detroiter, burst out of the gate to a 12-0 start and got a shot at well-regarded Ohioan Bobby Joe Young in a nationally-televised middleweight bout in Las Vegas during the summer of 1983. Chambers, today 56, lost on a technical knockout in the ninth round. He finished his pro career with a 22-2 overall mark.

There are those of the belief that Darrell Chambers was scapegoated (at the very least in regards to his sentence) for the frustration the government felt for the inability to catch bigger fish in its investigation into the Kronk Gym.

At least one exclusive Gangster Report source confirms this allegation.

“I was in meetings with the FBI regarding the Chambers case, all they wanted to know about was Manny and Tommy and other people they thought were doing dirt around him in that Kronk orbit. They didn’t care about Darrell, they wanted to use him to collect bigger fish for their mantelpieces. When they couldn’t, when Darrell wouldn’t give them what they wanted, they nailed him as hard as they could.”

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