Teofilo Stevenson Olympics
Teofilo Stevenson with his Olympic gold medal

Born: 29 March 1952

Died: 11 June 2012

Country: Cuba

After winning gold medal in the Olympic heavyweight division, Cassius Clay (1960), Joe Frazier (1964) and George Foreman (1968) became famous professional boxers. It was believed that Olympic Gold in that division was a guaranteed route to fame and fortune. It seemed before the 1972 Munich Games that another American named Duane Bobick was set to follow a similar path. His opponent in the quarterfinals was Teofilo Stevenson. In his opening match Teofilo had knocked down his opponent within thirty seconds of the opening bell, giving him a large cut next to his eye.

The much awaited match started with a close first round. The next round was won by Bobick. In a ferocious display of boxing in the third round Teofilo knocked Bobick to the canvas three times and the contest was stopped. Bobick’s mother was sobbing in the first row and his unbeaten record, which stretched to 65 fights, was over.

Teofilo went on to win the gold medal, not only in that Olympics but also in the next two. He became the first boxer to win three gold medals in the heavyweight division. In fact till date he is one of only three boxers who have won three Olympic gold medals. His dominance in Olympics can be gauged from the fact that it was in the third round of his third Olympics when Hungarian Istvan Levai became the first boxer to take Stevenson the distance. It was the first Olympic bout Teofilo won on points. Stevenson never lost a fight in Olympics. He could have won another gold medal if Cuba didn’t boycott the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Teofilo Stevenson vs Pyotr Zaev 1980 Olympics
Teofilo Stevenson against Pyotr Zaev whom he beat to win gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympics

Was Teofilo as good as some of the legendary professional boxers of that generation? Bob Surkein, a former boxer and the head referee at Montreal, certainly thought he was “Stevenson is the best – better than Foreman or Frazier and as good as Ali”. But we will never know for sure whether Teofilo would have beaten Ali or not. Multiple times Stevenson was offered millions of dollars to turn professional but he never took them. He wanted to keep competing for his country. “No, I will not leave my country for one million dollars or for much more than that,” he said. “What is a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?”

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