Teofilo Stevenson, the heavyweight boxer responsible for bringing three Olympic gold medals home to Cuba, passed away on Monday at the age of 60. Although no official cause of death has been released, an anonymous sports official stated that Stevenson likely died from a heart attack.
Stevenson, who was born in Cuba on March 29th, 1952, began sparring at his father’s open air gym when he was just nine years-old. He soon found a friend and mentor in John Herrera, a former light heavyweight boxing champion who took the young boy under his wing. He began his career by fighting boxers that were clearly more experienced, though Herrera believed that Stevenson “had what it took” to make a name for himself in the sport. And while he was considered a growing threat in Cuban boxing, it wasn’t until he defeated East Germany’s Bernd Andern in Berlin that he left his mark in the amateur boxing world.
As his skills as a fighter grew, so did his accolades. In addition to winning three World Amateur Championships and two gold medals from the Pan American Games, Stevenson snagged three gold medals during the 1972, 1976, and 1980 Olympic games. At one stage in his career, fans had hoped that he would square off against boxing legend Muhammad Ali, in what many considered to be the “fight of the century”. However, fearing that Stevenson would lose his amateur rank, Cuba decided not to schedule the fight.
During his career, Teofilo stayed true to his homeland, passing up millions of dollars in the process. “I prefer the affection of 8 million Cubans,” he once said about his decision.
Stevenson retired from the sport in 1988, with an impressive record of 302 wins and 22 loses. Twitter users are well-versed in the man’s legacy, and have taken to the site this morning to express their condolences. Have a look at some of the posts below.
Sad news as boxing great Teofilo Stevenson died! One of the greatest cubans and world boxers ever!
Teofilo Stevenson – what a man, sad to see him go so early
RT @pjcassidy: Olympic Legend Teofilo Stevenson passes away. He’s the ultimate “What If?” in regards to Heavyweight #boxing…
Teofilo Stevenson RIP A Cuban boxer who preferred glory for country than riches for himself. Better red than rich. http://t.co/RaiQ7vKu
Rest in peace Teofilo Stevenson, Cuban legend had right hand today’s heavies would envy. A real champ and could been pro champ if he wanted.