Boxing legend Stevenson dead

Cuban ace won three heavyweight gold medals on the trot in Olympics

Cuban heavyweight boxing great Teofilo Stevenson, who won three Olympic gold medals but turned down a chance to fight Muhammad Ali for $5 million, died of a heart attack at the age of 60, Cuban state media reported on Monday.

Stevenson won Olympic gold medals in 1972 at Munich, 1976 in Montreal and 1980 in Moscow and was widely considered the greatest amateur boxer of his time.

After the 1976 games, US boxing promoters offered Stevenson $5 million to turn professional and fight Ali, then heavyweight champion of the world. But he stayed loyal to the Cuban revolution, which outlawed professional sports, and refused.

“What is $1 million compared to the love of 8 million Cubans?” he reportedly said in turning down the fight.

Considered by some to be the most accomplished amateur boxer in history, Stevenson first won gold in 1972 in Munich and followed that up in 1976 at Montreal.

"The Olympic Games in Munich and Montreal are the fondest memories I have from my life, the best stage of my career," he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

In 1980, he won his third Olympic title in Moscow, becoming the second boxer to win gold at three separate games after Hungarian Lazlo Papp. Felix Savon, Stevenson's countryman who was mentored by the legend, accomplished the feat in 2000.

Known affectionately on the island by the nickname "Pirolo," Stevenson was famous for his punishing right, polished technique, deft hand and footwork, and his sportsmanship.

Stevenson was born March 29, 1952, to a family of modest means, in Las Tunas province in eastern Cuba. He fought in his first match at the age of 14, and two years later won his first international title in the Central American and Caribbean championship.

As his accomplishments grew, boxing fans began salivating over the prospect of a "fight of the century" pitting him against Ali. But the bout never took place.

After Stevenson won his first world title in 1974, Sports Illustrated ran the headline: "He'd Rather Be Red Than Rich."

Stevenson won world amateur titles again in 1978 and 1986, and was forced to pass up a shot at a fourth Olympic gold when Cuba did not attend the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. He retired in 1988 after Cuba decided to skip the Seoul Olympics as well.

In January, Stevenson spent 15 days in intensive care after doctors detected a clot in an artery near his heart. He was released in early February and was surprised at the outpouring of media reports that his condition was grave.

"People called me from all over Cuba, from other parts of the world, even from Miami," Stevenson said.

After his fighting career ended, Stevenson became a coach of Cuban boxers and served as vice president of the Cuban Boxing Federation. He had two children.

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