Sports Stevenson Greatest among the Great
By: Héctor Miranda Photos: Prensa Latina
Sports Stevenson Greatest among the Great By Héctor Miranda Photos: Prensa Latina Three Olympic gold medals and several world titles turned the Cuban heavyweight Teófilo Stevenson into the greatest amateur boxer of all time.
Before Stevenson, winner in Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, and Moscow 1980, only the Hungarian Laszlo Papp managed to get three golds (between 1948 and 1956), while Felix Savón succeeded in reaching similar titles to his name in Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, and Sydney 2000.
At Moscow, he was awarded with the Val Baker Cup for being the most outstanding and stylistic boxer of the Games. The heavyweight could easily have added a fourth gold medal in 1984 but the Cuban team decided not to attend the Los Angeles Games in solidarity with the former countries of the socialist block - so he settled for the title during the Friendship Games, a tournament that posted many results better than the Olympics.
During the finals, Stevenson withstood the pressure of the well-built Soviet boxer, Valeri Abadzhan, beating him before the final bell rang. The same thing happened with Alex García from the United States in the World Amateur finals in Reno 1986 where he added his third championship gold medal and reached his 302nd victory. On that day he ended his brilliant 20 year career in the ring.
Stevenson was born in 1952 in Delicias, a sugar mill town located in the eastern province of what is now known as Las Tunas. He made it to the top for good in the Munich Olympic Games when he beat Duane Bobbick, from the United States.
Marvin Stinson, Michael Dokes, Big John Tate, Willie Clark, Tony Tubbs, Jimmy Clark, Phil Brown, Tyrell Biggs and Alex García all fell victim to Stevenson.
At some point in his career, the possibility of the Cuban confronting Muhammad Ali was considered but the latter declined the invitation. The fight was going to be governed by the rules of the International Association of Amateur Boxing.
Ali said later on: "Stevenson is the best among the amateurs. I'm number one among the professionals. If there's space for both of us in this world, why should we fight?" The fight never happened but the two boxers did meet in the 1990's, becoming friends and visiting each other's home.
During his 20-year career, the Cuban boxer won 302 times and only lost 22 fights, two of them with the uncomfortable Soviet Igor Visotski. Boxing fans in Cuba still remember his fights with the late Angel Milián, always the most important matches during local tournaments.
Currently, Stevenson resides in Havana and is one of the Vice-Chairmen of the Cuban Federation of Boxing, a sport which he made shine for two decades.