By Ken Reed

One of the greatest boxers of all-time, Teofilo Stevenson, passed away recently with little fanfare at the age of 60. Stevenson was a three-time Olympic gold medalist for Cuba in 1972, 1976, and 1980. He might have won a fourth if Cuba hadn’t boycotted the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

Boxing observers like Howard Cosell and Don King believed Stevenson would have been world champion, or at least in the same class as Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

“Stevenson would have been phenomenal,” said King.

Despite his recognition as one of the best heavyweights — amateur or pro — of all-time, Stevenson is known as much for his sportsmanship and principled stand against commercialism and professional boxing as he is for his Olympic accomplishments. Over the course of his career, Stevenson turned down millions of dollars to turn professional. Stevenson was compared favorably to Ali, and promoters tried to set up a multi-million dollar fight between the two. Stevenson turned it down to stay true to the Cuban credo of amateurism.

“I will not leave my country for one million dollars or for much more than that,” said Stevenson. “What is a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?”

Cubans anointed Stevenson a national hero for his accomplishments in the ring and adherence to a strong set of principles. Stevenson once said that the millions of dollars going to boxers would be better spent on children, education and medical care.

“Someone once asked Ali what would have happened if we had fought,” Stevenson once told the Washington Post. “and he said it would be a draw. I think that’s right. It would’ve been a draw.”

One thing’s for sure, both Ali and Stevenson were athletes with a strong conscience.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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