Imagine a giant of a man with a right hand like a tumbling mountain and the principles of a protestor.
That was Teofilo Stevenson who died earlier this morning at the age of 60.
Born in 1952 in the Cuban town of Las Tunas to an existence of meager, but humble survival he won his first international title at 16. In an impressive career he went on to win three Olympic boxing gold medals, matching the feats of the fabled Lazlo Papp. His victories came in the black-marked 1972 Munich Olympic games, the 1976 Montreal games and then the 1980 Moscow games.
With his fame and reputation it was inevitable that promoters would come calling. However, Stevenson vowed never to bow to such offers, instead respecting the Cuban ban on professionalism. He reportedly backed this up with the question, “What is $1m? I prefer the affection of 8m Cubans”.
He was also said to have been offered hefty fees to face off against Muhammad Ali, a huge draw said to be worth $5m, but having already been dubbed by Sports Illustrated as the man who would “Rather Be Red Than Rich” few in Cuba were shocked when he turned them away.
He has recently served in Cuba’s Olympic committee as vice-president and has spent some considerable time coaching, but at the start of the year he spent 15 days in intensive care with a blocked artery. He eventually succumbed to a heart attack, according to state press releases.
Boxing mourns ‘Pirolo’: arguably the best heavyweight never to go pro. Beyond this, though, in an age where corruption is expected, even at the top, men with principles will always be missed.