Fidel: “Teofilo Stevenson deserves the recognition of the Cuban people for his athletic success derived from his discipline, his dedication to the sport, his courage, his moral (…) We believe that he set an example even more valuable than that, and it’s evidenced in the moment he was spoken of the possibility of winning a million dollars.
This young man, humble son of a humble family and noble worker, said he did not change his people for every dollar in the world. “
The greatest amateur boxer in history died from a heart attack on Monday in Havana, Cuba .
Victim of a heart attack on Monday in Havana, Cuba, three-time Olympic and World Champion Teofilo Stevenson, the greatest amateur boxer in history, died.
The Giant from Central Delicias was named Pirolo by his friends. He got all the titles of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA, for its Spanish accronym), being three-time Olympic and world triumphant, winning 301 of the 321 fights held over 20 years in the ring. Upon retiring in 1988, he worked in the Cuban Boxing Federation and in the National Commission to Assist Active and Retired Athletes, which belongs to the Cuban Sports Institute, INDER, according to the Cubadebate website
The first fight occurred at the age 14 in 1966. He fought in the 71 kg division, in a ring located next to the baseball stadium Julio Antonio Mella, in Las Tunas. The inexperienced big boy would lose on points against Luis Enriquez, a fighter who had already held about 20 fights.
Following positive experiences in battles in the smaller categories, he won the national junior title in 1968, and a year later, he lost by close decision in the fight for the heavyweight crown against Gabriel Garcia of Pinar del Rio, in the biggest event of this sport in Cuba, the Playa de Giron Tournament.
Andrei Chervonenko, coach of the Soviet Union, who worked at that time with the Cuban boxing preselection, noticed the exceptional conditions of the young man and suggested incorporating him into the elite group that was preparing for major international commitments. In 1970 began Stevenson’s long national reign and a year later, in the Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, he won the bronze medal, losing by split decision 3-2, before American Duane Bobick, known as the White Hope.
The rematch was historic, because 12 months later, at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany; Teofilo enrolled himself in golden letters in the amateur boxing world when he virtually destroyed the USA giant and became absolute monarch in the heavyweights.
The brilliant career of this boxer took him to get all the titles of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA), with three Olympic crowns( Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, and Moscow 1980) and identical number of World tourneys (Havana 1974, Belgrade 1978, Reno, 1986) . But fame did not puff him up, as he always assumed a gentlemanly position vs. opponents, from the least known to the most notorious.
In the 20 years spent in the ring, 14 of them as undisputed star, he faced many qualified fighters, but the most difficult of all was the Soviet Visotski Igor, who defeated him twice and whom he had no opportunity to get revenge. An interesting episode in the life of Teofilo Stevenson was when in the 80’s of the last century, there was an intent on the part of the leaders of professional boxing in the U.S. to arrange a fight against the recognized and rented champion of the heavyweight Mohamed Ali.
The confrontation was expected to define who was the best boxer in the world in the top division. Of course, the main objective was to obtain a large sum of money from what would have been, without doubt, the fight of the century. The conditions of that fight never came to fruition, because it had to be made under the rules of amateur boxing.
The merchants were left with the desire to get richer and two extraordinary fighters, who were great friends, not ever measured their strengths in the ring, but today they are equally admired around the world, not only for their greatness in the sport, but because of their huge human quality.
After the tremendous victory in Reno’s World Tourney, in 1986, the great champion retires and in July 1988 during the international boxing tournament Giraldo Cordova Cardin in Las Tunas, he is given a farewell.
Teofilo Stevenson’s greatness can not be measured only by his sporting glories, he is a paradigm of man of these times, representative of the people who made the revolution and built socialism, a role model for young athletes from all over the world .
Accurate words of the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro summarized the trajectory of the athlete, when he said:
“Teofilo Stevenson deserves the recognition of the Cuban people for his athletic success derived from his discipline, his dedication to the sport, his courage, his moral (…) We believe that he set an example even more valuable than that and it’s evidenced in the moment he was spoken of the possibility of winning a million dollars. This young man, humble son of a humble family and eastern worker, said he did not change his people for every dollar in the world. “
Taken from Cubadebate/Translated by Escambray