By Bob Ryder
Don Thibodeaux, who helped Emanuel Steward in training and guiding the early careers of Kronk stars Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Mickey Goodwin and others, passed away Friday night here in Detroit. Thibodeaux had been in ill health for much of the last 20 years, suffering a variety of aliments including heart trouble and diabetes. He was 69 years old.
An amateur boxer himself, Thibodeaux boxed on the same Detroit Golden Gloves team as Emanuel Steward in the early 60′s. As Steward began to build the foundation in the mid 1970′s that would evolve into the Kronk dynasty, Don was right there as an assistant trainer, traveling the country with the gym’s growing stable of talented amateurs. Thibodeaux worked the corners of Kenty and Hearns as pros as well, helping Steward to propel them to world titles. After working Hearns’ corner in the first Leonard fight, Thibodeaux left Kronk. Some speculated it was over money but Don always claimed it was about lack of appreciation on Hearns’ part for his contribution to the young fighters development.
Going out on his own Thibodeaux stayed involved with boxing, training Tony Tucker and Hector Camacho, Sr. for a period of time. His sons started to box and Don put on shows featuring them in the Detroit suburb of Roseville. A talented artist as well, Don’s best known work is the larger than life size statue of Muhammad Ali that he fashioned from car bumpers and other auto parts and which currently resides in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit (although not on display at this time).
With his health failing, Thibodeaux pretty much dropped out of the local boxing scene in recent years. Occasionally he would make an appearance at a club show when feeling up to it or invited by a friend. When he did join the crowd at a card his love and appreciation for the sport was still evident to all. His contributions to boxing were extensive and many. Don is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.