Cuba's hero for all seasons

Considered as one of the greatest amateur boxers of all time and, probably, Cuba second’s most important figure behind iconic leader Fidel Castro, Teofilo Stevenson is truly a heavyweight legend.

Teofilo Stevenson (right) was a classy fighter.Born in a family of modest means in Las Tunas on March 29, 1952, Stevenson fought his first bout at the age of 14 and there has been no looking back since then for the ‘Pirlo’, racking up a stunning three successive Olympic gold medals (from 1972 to 1980) and three World Amateur Championship titles (1974, ’78 and ’86).

Making his debut at the ’72 Munich Games, Stevenson gave an indication of things to come from his punishing gloves, knocking down the experienced Polish fighter Ludwik Denderys within 30 seconds of the opening bell.

With his star value rising day by day, especially after ’74 World Championships in Havana and a second Olympic gold at the Montreal Games two years later, Stevenson’s got himself etched in the hearts of his countrymen when he declined an opportunity to turn professional and fight the great Muhammed Ali.

Offered $5 million by US promoters, Stevenson chose to stay loyal to the Cuban Revolution which outlawed professional sports, before famously stating, “What is  $1 million compared to the love of 8 million Cubans?”

Stevenson, who passed away on June 11 this year, won another amateur title in ’78 and a third Olympic gold at the Moscow Games but was forced to pass up shots at the Los Angeles and Seoul Games after Cuba decided to skip them.

Stevenson bid adieu to the sport soon after but considering he pocketed a third amateur world title in 1986, one can only imagine what he could have accomplished had he participated in those two Games.

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