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'I just admire him so much:' Smoketown celebrates Fred Stoner, legendary boxing trainer

The event is a part of the many Juneteenth celebrations in Louisville. Stoner trained several boxers, including Muhammad Ali.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Juneteenth is just around the corner and the City of Louisville has been hosting events all month long to celebrate.

Thursday afternoon, Mayor Greg Fischer apologized for historical wrongdoings that had huge implications for the Black community.

Thursday evening, WHAS11 also went to an event that honored a boxing legend who might not have been in the ring, but whose impact hit just as hard.

Fred Stoner trained several great boxers, including the ‘Greatest of All Time,’ Muhammad Ali.

Stoner was celebrated just outside of his former gym in the Smoketown neighborhood.

His granddaughter, Shavon Stoner, said she was happy to see his legacy honored.

"He didn't get his accolades while he was alive, and so the whole event is called 'Freddy Flowers,'” she said. “You have to give people their flowers while they're still alive. Don't wait till they leave."

The event was loaded with food, music and games; it’s something Shavon said Stoner would have done himself in order to give back to the community.

Several young boxers from various gyms in Louisville sparred to mark the occasion.

Demetrius McDowell is also an organizer and is the founder of ‘Bosses Not Bangers,’ a group in Louisville that mentors young people and helps them become entrepreneurs.

"Everything that he stood for was being mindful,” McDowell said of Stoner.

He said it's important for young people to know about Stoner and everything he represented.

Young boxer Emari 'The Tank' Alexander, said he understands and knows the lessons learned in the ring can be used in life.

"It's important so we can change the community, change the way everything is going on,” he said.

While Stoner did train Ali, he also trained several other great boxers, like 90-year-old Thomas Bishop Jr.

"He looked after us just like a father,” Bishop said.

Bishop recalled Stoner looking after them in the ring, but also while traveling as a team during heavily segregated times.

Bishop said he was happy to see his former coach celebrated.  

"I just admire him so much that I just had to come,” he said.

Shon Crowdus Sr. also made an appearance; he said he was also one of Stoner’s students. Crowdus said Stoner inspired him to become a trainer himself, and now he's the coach and manager of Technical Boxing Gym in Louisville.

“He was a father. He was a role model,” Crowdus said of Stoner. “He was a grandfather. He was a friend.”

Rhonda and Angela Mathis, founders of Smoketown Originals, an organization that provides resources for the community and young people, said Stoner’s impact is long-lasting.

They also said more events like the one Thursday are needed.

Mayor Greg Fischer also showed support at the event, which is a part of the many Juneteenth celebrations leading up to the holiday on Sunday.

Thursday afternoon, while speaking at a luncheon, he apologized for historical wrongdoings toward the Black community on behalf of himself and the city of Louisville.

“I take responsibility for the system I’ve been elected to lead, both the past and the present,” Fischer said.

Looking toward the future, Louisville's Black community hopes Black voices continue to be elevated: Stoner's and countless others.

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