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|Real name||Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence|
|Height||6 ft 5 in (196 cm)|
|Born||29 March 1952|
Puerto Padre, Las Tunas Province, Cuba
|Died||11 June 2012 (aged 60)|
Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence (29 March 1952 – 11 June 2012) was a Cuban amateur boxer, who competed from 1966 to 1986. He won the Val Barker Trophy (1972) and was honoured with the Olympic Order (1987). Stevenson is one of only three boxers to win three Olympic gold medals, alongside Hungarian László Papp and fellow Cuban Félix Savón. He might have become a five-time Olympic champion had the Cuban authorities allowed the Cuban boxing team to participate in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, which they boycotted.>
Stevenson was born in Puerto Padre, Cuba. His father, Teófilo Stevenson Patterson, was an immigrant from Saint Vincent. His mother Dolores Lawrence was a native Cuban, but her parents were immigrants from the Anglophone island of Saint Kitts. Teófilo senior arrived in Cuba in 1923, finding work wherever he could, before settling in Camagüey with Dolores, where he gave English lessons to top up his meagre earnings. Due to his large size, Teófilo senior was encouraged into boxing by local trainers, fighting seven times before becoming disillusioned by the corrupt payment structure on offer to young fighters.
Teófilo junior was a shiftless but bright child who at nine years old soon found himself sparring at the makeshift open-air gym his father had frequented. Under the tutelage of former national light heavyweight champion John Herrera, Teófilo junior began his career fighting far more experienced boxers, but according to Herrera, "had what it took". Despite his growing involvement in the sport, Stevenson had yet to tell his mother about his activities. Eventually Teófilo Sr. broke the news to his wife, who was furious; but she agreed to acquiesce on the provision that the boy was accompanied by his father.
The young Stevenson continued to improve under Herrera in the mid 1960s, winning a junior title and gaining additional training in Havana. His victories drew the attention of Andrei Chervonenko, a head coach in Cuba's newly implemented state sports system. Professional sports throughout the island had been outlawed since 1962 by government resolution 83-A, and all boxing activity had come under the guidance of the government sponsored National Boxing Commission. Chervonenko, a retired boxer himself, sent by the Soviet Union, who had created Cuba's Escuela de Boxeo (Boxing school) in a derelict old gym in Havana, began to champion Stevenson's progress.
Stevenson's senior boxing career began at age seventeen with a defeat in the national championships against the experienced heavyweight Gabriel Garcia. Despite the setback, Stevenson went on to register convincing victories over Nancio Carrillo and Juan Perez, two of Cuba's finest boxers in the weight division, securing a place in the national team for the 1970 Central American and Caribbean Boxing Championships. Defeat in the final after three victories was considered no shame, and Stevenson firmly established himself as Cuba's premier heavyweight. Back in the gym Chervonenko and leading Cuban boxing coach Alcides Sagarra worked on Stevenson's jab, which became his ultimate weapon, and paid dividends when the Cuban easily defeated East Germany's Bernd Anders in front of a surprised Berlin crowd. The victory made the entire amateur boxing world take notice of Stevenson as a serious heavyweight contender.
Munich Olympics 1972
Stevenson, now twenty, joined the Cuban boxing team for the Munich Olympics of 1972. His opening bout against experienced Polish fighter Ludwik Denderys began dramatically when Stevenson knocked the other man down within thirty seconds of the opening bell. The fight was stopped moments later due to a large cut next to the Pole's eye.
Proceeding to the quarter finals, Stevenson met American boxer Duane Bobick. Bobick, a gold medalist at the 1971 Pan American Games, had beaten Stevenson previously. After a close first round, Stevenson lost the second, but a ferocious display in the third round knocked Bobick to the canvas three times and the contest was stopped. The victory was viewed on television throughout Cuba, and is still considered Stevenson's most memorable performance.
Stevenson easily defeated German Peter Hussing in the semifinal by TKO in the 2nd round, and received his gold medal after Romanian Ion Alexe failed to appear in the final due to injury. The Cuban boxing team won three gold medals, their first in Olympic boxing history, as well as one silver and one bronze. The Munich games established Cuba's dominance over the amateur sport that was to last decades. It also established Stevenson as the world's premier amateur heavyweight boxer.
Less than two years after his successful performance at the Munich Olympics, Stevenson, then 22-year-old, was rewarded with a house for himself in Havana and another for himself and his family in Delicias. Stevenson later recalled: "I had no idea the house in Delicias was going to be so big. When I was shown the plans, I said, 'What is this? A bunker?’" AIBA President Anwar Chowdhry, when asked did the Cuban authorities acted properly in giving Stevenson two houses and two cars, said: "These things should not be allowed. If gifts are to be given it should be for everybody—not for a few." Over tea in his office in Havana's Sports City Coliseum, INDER President Conrado Martínez Corona defended the local practice of giving cars and apartments to top athletes. "Our country has the obligation of solving the problems of all citizens—the problems of their nourishment, housing, education and health," he said. "It's a pity we can't solve this problem in the way we need to for everybody."
Stevenson did the same at the inaugural 1974 World Championships in Havana, Cuba, and then in the 1976 Summer Olympics, held in Montreal, Stevenson repeated the feat once again. By then, he had become a national hero in Cuba. This was the point where he was the closest to signing a professional contract, as American fight promoters offered him US$5 million to challenge world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. If he had accepted, it would have made Stevenson the second boxer to go straight from the Olympics into a professional debut with the world's Heavyweight crown on the line, after Pete Rademacher. Stevenson refused the offer, however, asking "What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?" Stevenson went to the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and became the second boxer ever, after Papp, to win three Olympic boxing gold medals.
Stevenson participated at the 1982 World Amateur Boxing Championships in Munich, but lost to the eventual silver medalist and future professional world champion Francesco Damiani from Italy. This fight ended an eleven-year unbeaten run by Stevenson and was the only occasion that he did not win the gold medal at the World Championships when he entered the competition.
His loss by a split decision to Aleksandr Lukstin of the Soviet Union in the finals of the 1983 Córdova Cardín, as the Soviet head coach Kontsantin Koptsev later admitted, was due to a plaster-like tape they handwrapped Lukstin's fists instead of a regular elastic-band hand wrapping.
Stevenson might have won a fourth gold medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics, but the Soviet Union boycotted the games, which were hosted by Los Angeles, in retaliation for the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow competition. Cuba followed the Soviet lead, and Stevenson did not compete. For consolation, he beat future Olympic champion Tyrell Biggs in February 1984 (breaking three ribs in a process) and won the super heavyweight gold at the 1984 Friendship Games, defeating Ulli Kaden of East Germany and, in the final, Valeriy Abadzhyan of the Soviet Union. At the 1986 World Amateur Boxing Championships, he won the super heavyweight gold, defeating Alex Garcia from the United States in the final. Stevenson retired from boxing shortly after the 1988 Summer Olympics, which Cuba also boycotted.
Rivalry with Vysotsky
I fought Teofilo twice. We first met at the "Córdova Cardín" tournament in 1973 in Cuba. I took the first two opponents, both being Cuban, out early. In the third, I beat Stevenson on points. Although the score was 3:2, the pace of the fight forced Teófilo to take two necessary breaks to retie his gloves. We had a saying in the USSR, "It’s easier to win the World championships than it is to win 'Córdova Cardín'.” The second time was at a class A International tournament in Minsk, in March 1976. In each stanza, Stevenson took a count, while in the final three minutes, I knocked him out.— Igor Vysotsky, Interview with East Side Boxing, 2006
Vysotsky was the only boxer out of hundreds of Stevenson's opponents to ever stop him, let alone by knockout, and to defeat him twice, both times in his prime, without being avenged. And on top of it, Vysotsky scored his first victory over Stevenson at the Córdova Cardín, Cubans' home tournament, where they do their best to never let any foreigner get into the finals.
Stevenson's second loss to Vysotsky happened six weeks before his knockout winning streak at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, which ended up with a victories over John Tate and Mircea Șimon. After losing to Vysotsky for a second time he said, "Nobody is invincible."
Local match-up (71 kg), Las Tunas, Cuba, October 1966 (debut):
National Youth Championships (+81 kg), Camagüey, Cuba, 1968
Local match-up (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, 1970:
I Central America and the Caribbean Championships (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, September 1970:
III Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, October 1970:
Cuba–Czechoslovakia Duals (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, March 1971:
Czechoslovakia–Cuba Duals (+81 kg), Prague, Czechoslovakia, March 1971:
Austria–Cuba Duals (+81 kg), Vienna, Austria, May 1971:
IV Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, June 1971:
Panama–Cuba Duals (+81 kg), Panama City, Panama, June 1971:
Cuba–Bulgaria Duals (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, July 1971:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, September 1971:
III TSC Tournament (+81 kg), Berlin, East Germany, October 1971:
Cuba–USSR Duals (+81 kg), Berlin, East Germany, October 1971:
II Central America and the Caribbean Championships (+81 kg), San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 1971:
VII Friendship Youth Tournament (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, December 1971:
Cuba–USSR Duals (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, January 1972:
Cuba–Romania Duals (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, April 1972:
GDR–Cuba Duals (+81 kg), Berlin, East Germany, 1972:
III Chemistry Cup (+81 kg), Halle, East Germany, May 1972:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, May 1972:
V Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, July 1972:
III Central America and the Caribbean Championships (+81 kg), San José, Costa Rica, November 1972:
Golden Belt Tournament (+81 kg), Bucharest, Romania, April 1973:
VI Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, July 1973:
IV Central America and the Caribbean Championships (+81 kg), Mexico City, Mexico, November 1973:
Golden Belt Tournament (+81 kg), Bucharest, Romania, May 1974:
VII Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Camagüey, Cuba, July 1974:
V Central America and the Caribbean Championships (+81 kg), Caracas, Venezuela, December 1974:
INDER Anniversary Festival (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, February 1975:
XV Honvéd Cup (+81 kg), Budapest, Hungary, March 1975:
Golden Belt Tournament (+81 kg), Bucharest, Romania, April 1975:
VIII Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Las Villas, Cuba, July 1975:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, December 1975:
Jamaica–Cuba Duals (+81 kg), Kingston, Jamaica, February 1976:
IX Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Pinar del Río, Cuba, May 1976:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, February 1977:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Camagüey, Cuba, April 1977:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Matanzas, Cuba, April 1977:
Local match-up (+81 kg), Bayamo, Cuba, April 1977:
I Battle of Carabobo International Tournament (+81 kg), Caracas, Venezuela, June 1977:
X Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Matanzas, Cuba, July 1977:
VIII Central America and the Caribbean Championships (+81 kg), Panama City, Panama, August 1977:
Cuba–USA Duals (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, February 1978:
Golden Belt Tournament (+81 kg), Bucharest, Romania, March 1978:
XI Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Cienfuegos, Cuba, April 1978:
National Team Championships (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, September 1978:
VIII Chemistry Cup (+81 kg), Halle, East Germany, March 1979:
Golden Belt Tournament (+81 kg), Bucharest, Romania, March 1979:
XII Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Havana, Cuba, May 1979:
National Team Championships (+81 kg), Puerto Padre, Cuba, September 1979:
XX Honvéd Cup (+81 kg), Budapest, Hungary, April 1980:
XIII Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+81 kg), Holguín, Cuba, May–June 1980:
Local match-up (+91 kg), San José, Cuba, June 1981:
XI Chemistry Cup (+91 kg), Halle, East Germany, March 1982:
XV Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+91 kg), Guantánamo, Cuba, May 1982:
Cuba–GDR Duals (+91 kg), n. a., 1983:
XVI Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+91 kg), Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, August 1983:
North American Championships (+91 kg), Houston, Texas, September 1983:
XIII Chemistry Cup (+91 kg), Halle, East Germany, March–April 1984:
AIBA International Challenge (+91 kg), Los Angeles, California, April 1984:
Cuba–USSR Duals (+91 kg), Havana, Cuba, August 1984:
III TSC Tournament (+81 kg), Berlin, East Germany, September 1984:
VI Military Spartakiad of the Friendly Armies of the Socialist Countries (+91 kg), Bydgoszcz, Poland, August 1985:
IV TSC Tournament (+91 kg), Berlin, East Germany, September 1985:
XV Chemistry Cup (+91 kg), Halle, East Germany, March 1986:
XIX Giraldo Córdova Cardín Tournament (+91 kg), Guantánamo, Cuba, April 1986:
He finished his twenty-years-long career having 332 fights under his belt, with a record of 302 wins, 22 losses (only 1 by knockout,) and 8 draws. Various western estimates totaling his record to 500+ fights, including there hundreds of unaccounted tough sparrings with a degree of aliveness outstanding for amateur boxing, which paid off with such an excellent career (his fearsome reputation alone brought him 22 walkover wins, and a number of byes to skip unnecessary encounters with a limited opposition.)
1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics
Stevenson might have captured more gold medals for his country, but the Cuban government for purely political reasons boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games and refused to attend the 1988 Seoul Games because North Korea was not allowed to cosponsor the event.
|Muhammad Ali and Teófilo Stevenson at the ring posing for the press photo|
|Teófilo gives Muhammad a tour across Havana|
At his prime in the 1970s, Stevenson dominance in the amateur heavyweight division coincided with Muhammad Ali's reign as the world's heavyweight champion in professional boxing. Stevenson was often dubbed by the American media as Ali's "Communist twin", and speculations went back and forth as to their much anticipated fight if Stevenson would accept an offer to turn pro (which in essence meant to defect and to leave Cuba permanently). Along with Pete Rademacher, he was the only amateur boxer who was offered a shot at the world's heavyweight title in his potential pro debut. Eventually Ali spent one week in Cuba with Stevenson, but their matchup would never happen. Stevenson, when he finally met Ali, suggested to Ali to arrange a three- or four-round fight. Ali refused to fight Stevenson's way, implying he would face him off in a standard 15-round championship bout, in which he would have an edge by outlasting his opponent (al though in 1971 Ali himself invited the recent Soviet heavyweight champion Kamo Saroyan, who visited the United States, for a two-round bout). When the aging Ali was going to fight Larry Holmes in 1980, and Stevenson was making his way to the third gold medal in Moscow, Stevenson commented to the press that now it was Ali who should have insisted on a three- or four-round fight.
I haven't seen this much class and skill in the professional for a long time nor at the amateur. Stevenson would undoubtedly became champion of the world professionally if he decided to. He has the skill and qualification any time he wants to become champion of the world."
Stevenson turned down several lucrative offers to go pro, which came from various internationally well-known U.S. boxing kingpins, most notably from Don King and Bob Arum. King's top rival Arum almost succeeded and came the closest to pulling off an Ali-Stevenson matchup when the Cubans accepted his $1 million offer for five three-round exhibition fights. "We plan to use this money for social problems," an INDER official said at the time. But the U.S. Treasury Department did not allow the series, saying that it violated terms of the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Apart from that attempt, Arum used a Jamaican promoter, Lucien Chen, as a mediator, to propose a $1 million fight against Leon Spinks. "I envisioned a fight that would be attended by the two presidents, Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter," Chen said.
Nevertheless, Stevenson's professional debut never did happen, because he remained loyal to the Cuban revolutionary ideals, never accepting any payday for himself, no matter how big it appeared. After knocking out three opponents at the Munich Olympics in September 1972, including Duane Bobick of the United States, Stevenson was approached by an American promoter, who offered him $1 million to turn pro on the spot. "I will not trade the Cuban people for all the dollars in the world," Stevenson was heard to say. "Stevenson would have been phenomenal as a pro, he could have been in the same class as Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier. But we'll never know," said Don King.
Retirement and later years
Stevenson finished his sports career in 1988. He started to work as a boxing trainer and sports functionary. He worked at the National Institute for Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER,) also he served as vice president of the Cuban Boxing Federation.
In 1999, Stevenson was arrested for an altercation incident at Miami International Airport where, before boarding a United Airlines chartered jet of the Cuban national boxing team, he allegedly headbutted a 41-year-old United Airlines ticket counter employee, knocking him off several teeth in the process. According to Stevenson, an "agitator" approached him at the airport shouting insults against the Cuban government and other things, which are sensitive to any Cuban. Stevenson failed to attend the subsequent court proceedings, having travelled to Havana after his release from custody while on bail. The Cuban state newspaper Trabajadores blamed what it described as the "Miami mafia" (i.e. Cuban exiles, whose vast diaspora reside in Florida) for provoking the incident, alleging that the Cuban American National Foundation organised a public gathering to abuse Stevenson when he returned to Miami airport after his arrest. The newspaper believed that the motives for the alleged provocation were somehow to cast a shadow upon a Cuban sports star.
Stevenson died on 11 June 2012 of a heart attack in Havana at the age of 60. It was first reported by Cuban state media, stating that "the Cuban sporting family was moved today by the passing of one of the greatest of all time".
Awards and honours
- Stevenson was awarded the Val Barker Trophy for Outstanding Boxer at the 1972 Olympic Games.
- In 1972, Stevenson became a Merited Master of Sport of the USSR, one of a few foreign athletes to be awarded the title in its history.
- "Teófilo Stevenson (full name: Teófilo Stevenson Lawrence)". Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC.
- Hudson, David L. (2009). Combat Sports: An Encyclopedia of Wrestling, Fighting, and Mixed Martial Arts. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 298–299. ISBN 978-0-313-34383-4.
- "Las Tunas-born Teofilo Stevenson: a Legend that Lives on". Archived from the original on 20 August 2006. Retrieved 22 June 2011.. Periodico.
- In the Red Corner. John Duncan. pp. 77–79.
- Cubans flex muscles in world of controversy / Independent News – Cuba News / Noticias – CubaNet News Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Duncan, p.79
- Duncan, p-80-81
- Brubaker, Bill (21 February 1986). "A Boxer to Whom Money Didn't Talk". The Washington Post: A1.
- "Cuban boxing champion Teofilo Stevenson dies". BBC News. BBC. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- "Sport in Cuba: The Diamond in the Rough". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 30 June 2006.
- Территория бокса - Андрей Курнявка и Константин Копцев (Выпуск 28) (in Russian)
- "Friendhips Tournament - Havana, Cuba - August 18-24 1984". amateur-boxing.strefa.pl. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Komarnitzky, Gennadiy; Koza, Izyaslav (24 December 2006). "SOVIET LEGENDS: Igor Vysotsky – The man who had Teofilo Stevenson's number!" ESB EXCLUSIVE Interview!". East Side Boxing.
- Olympic Heavyweight Boxing Champion Teofilo Stevenson Seriously Burned, Florence Morning News, 1 September 1977, p. 22.
- An older brother to José Manuel Ribalta, a boxer who is known for his 1986 fight versus Mike Tyson.
- Stevenson KOs Tate by Martin Lader (MONTREAL UPI), Berkshire Eagle Newspaper, 30 July 1976, p. 20.
- Cuban Heavyweight Looks For 3rd Gold by Will Grimsley (AP Special Correspondent), Hanover Evening Sun, 25 July 1980, p. 10.
- Ali Invites Russian To Go 2 Rounds (UPI,) Kingsport News, January 7, 1971, 7-C.
- John Tate vs. Teofilo Stevenson (live broadcast,) July 1976.
- Accused Cuban boxer provoked by insults to Castro Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Reuters News
- Patrick Oppmann (12 June 2012). "Cuban boxing legend Teofilo Stevenson dead at 60". CNN. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- "Teofilo Stevenson, Cuban Olympic boxing champion, dies at 60". Sporting News. Associated Press. 12 June 2012. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Staff (12 June 2012). "Teofilo Stevenson". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Panorama of the 1972 Sports Year (in Russian). Moscow: Fizkultura i sport. 1973. pp. 122–124.
- Amateur career of Teófilo Stevenson (in Spanish) compiled by Pedro Cabrera Isidrón of the Cuban Olympics Committee. Last updated: 25 June 2008
- Media related to Teófilo Stevenson at Wikimedia Commons
- Quotations related to Teófilo Stevenson at Wikiquote
| Flagbearer for Cuba