Teofilo Stevenson (Circa 1985)


San Francisco, CA– Of all of the baseball players and boxers who have defected from their native Cuba, no athlete was more famous on the island nation than Teofilo Stevenson died of a heart attack on Monday, this according to Cuban National News. Now 60 years old, Teofilo was the 1972, 1976 ad 1980 Olympic heavyweight Gold Medalist. Because President Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, a dumb move if ever there was, as Cuban’s leader Fidel Castro did the same for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.


Had Stevenson, who stood around 6’5, fought an American in 1980, it would have been the late James Broad, a man who fought everybody in the 1980s before becoming a sparring partner (sadly a punch drunk punching bag) in Las Vegas gyms. Broad died in 2001, homeless and living behind a bus station in North Carolina. In 1984, if Castro wouldn’t have been truculent, Stevenson would have faced Tyrell Biggs. Broad was a big “broad” guy, Biggs was a lean giant at 6’4. Although I think Teofilo would have beaten Broad, he would have had to work to beat Biggs, but I think that in hindsight he would have.


Castro mucked up the 1988 Olympics when he wouldn’t send a team to Seoul, South Korea. That it year it would have been Teofilo vs. an undisciplined American named Riddick Bowe. The Cuban would have been 36, but I still think he might have beaten Bowe, who lost to Lennox Lewis in the ’88 heavyweight finals. Lennox vs. Stevensen in ’88 would have been a great Olympic finale.


Muhammad Ali-Stevenson (1998)

Big like the aforementioned 1988 Olympic champion Lennox Lewis, Teofilo was big, but he had much smoother moves than Lewis, especially afoot. An excellent boxer-puncher, Teofilo turned down $5 million US in the 70s to face Muhammad Ali for the World heavyweight championship. Only one boxer had ever done that before, going straight from the amateurs to a shot at the World heavyweight title and that was 1956 Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher against then champion Floyd Patterson. Floyd was down once, Pete five times, a LO 6 loser.


Had Stevenson fought Ali, unlike NBA star 7’1 Wilt Chamberlain who pulled out of an Ali bout, Stevenson was no freak show. Had Ali and Teofilo clashed anywhere from 1974 to 1977, it would have been a fight that would have made the world stop and take notice. But Stevenson’s one-line counter to that fight was as eloquent and important as anything a prizefighter ever said. “Why trade $5 million for the love of eight million people. There will be a huge public funeral for Cuba’s biggest sports star ever Stevenson later this week. His death is thought to be because of a heart attack, as it was a heart ailment that had him in the hospital in January 2012. Historically, the only other two athletes who won Olympic Gold three times were Hungary’s Laszlo Papp and fellow Cuban Felix Savon.

Pedro Fernandez


  • Pedro Fernandez

    Touching words Mr. Davis. Thanks!

  • I watched closely and loved deeply Ali, and he was the greatest heavyweight other than Stevenson ever to grace the lonely canvas. Ali was great not simply because he was extraordinarily quick and fast with feet and hands, nor because he was a brilliant tactician, nor because he had an incomparable ability to withstand body blows, but also because he had character: he was willing, without hesitation nor compunction, to sacrifice the three greatest prime years of his professional career because of his beliefs: to not fight in a war that he believed was morally indefensible.
    I say all this because Teofilo Stevenson was a man of similar grace and beauty in the ring. Possessed of extraordinary speed and quickness, possibly an incomparably powerful right hand, he had above all else extraordinary character: he would not turn his back on his beliefs, his people and their love, and his sens of responsibility to humanity in the form of the Cuban revolution in which he passionately believed. Agree with him or not, he could not be bought for any amount of money. What greater legacy can a man have than that of Teofilo Stevenson (or, for that matter Muhammad Ali). That is the message I would want my child to learn: Stand up for what you believe in, never compromise your morals at any price, and care only about being the best you can be and doing the best for humanity that you can

    A side note: Ali v. Stevenson would have been an extraordinary match-up. Stevenson v. Foreman would have been Foreman’s last and final fight: he would have met the same fate as at the hands of Ali, but just six or seven rounds sooner. He was as quick as Ali and a vastly harder puncher than both Ali and Foreman too. he did not need combinations of punches: as he downed opponents with one single punch: a right to the temple / zygomatic arch. Poof. Done.

  • BTW, who is better, teofilo or felix savon?

  • Great article. RIP Teo.

  • Anybody knew what was the reaction of ALI about the proposed bout?? I think Foreman is a better match-up size & strengh wise.

  • An off-form and slightly out-of shape had some trouble with Biggs’ handspeed early in the first fight before his pressure paid statred to break Biggs down. The other time he knocked him cold if I recall correctly, although I;ve lost the tape and can’t find video anywhjere online anymore. It’s a safe bet Stevenson would have been even sharper in the Olympics – although you never if Biggsmanaged to last the distnace he may have benefited from the same kind of scoring as Henry Tillman…

    I’m not sure if Stevenson ultimately had the chin to dominate in the pro ranks, at least not without adopting a more cautious style. Although obviously there would have been very few opponents who would have paid the price necessary to get to him.

  • It’s hard to imagine that possibly the best fighter of the 70s never turned pro. What a fighter. Rest in peace.

  • Stevenson beat Tyrell Biggs twice (One by KO) in the months leading up to the 1984 Olympics. I have both fights on tape. Biggs was totally outclassed in both fights.

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