|How Good Was 3-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Teofilio Stevenson?
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Feb 13, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
After winning his second Olympic Gold
Medal in the heavyweight division the Cuban Teofilio Stevenson was
rumored to have a bout with then world champion Muhammad Ali possibly
in Havana for millions after the 1976 Olympics. His refusal
statement was “what is five million dollars compared to the love of
five million Cubans?” Fidel Castro was a big sports fan in
baseball and boxing and it would not be a professional bout but an
exhibition with monies going to the Cuban National boxing team.
Stevenson at 6:05 got off to a bad
start in 1966 losing his one fight in October to fellow Cuban Luis
Henriquez. In 1968 he was 1-1 losing to Cuban Adolfo Galvez in
November. In 1969 he was 0-1 losing to Cuban Gabriel Garcia in
December. In 1970 at the age of 18 he went 9-1 reversing losses to
Galvez and Garcia but losing to Bernd Anders of East Germany who had
competed in the 1968 Olympics.
In 1971 Stevenson defeated Galvez
twice. In March in Cuba he lost to Czech Republic’s Petr Cemerys
and again in that month in Praga, CZ. He was 9-2 before fighting in
Cali, COL, in the Pan American Games. After defeating Pablo
Sarmiento of ARG he lost to the USA’s Duane Bobick 3-2 and received
a Bronze medal. He would win 7 of his next 8 bouts defeating Anders
but losing to Yuri Nesterov of Russia.
In 1972 Stevenson seemed to have come
to age winning 11 straight including stopping Anders. He qualified
for the Munich Olympics and defeated Ludwig Denderys of Poland and
was re-matched with Bobick who had just won in a war over the
favorite Nesterov. Why it wasn’t Stevenson who fought the favored
Russian whom he lost to the previous year instead of Bobick was not
clear. Russian and Cuba had a close relationship. After splitting
the first 2 rounds Stevenson would stop Bobick in the third round.
He would follow-up stopping Peter Hussing of West Germany with a
counter right after Hussing landed a jab. “I have never been hit
so hard in 212 fights,” said Hussing. Stevenson then defeated Ion
Alexe of Romania for his first Gold medal in a walk over due to an
injured hand. He was awarded the Val Barker trophy as the best boxer
in the Olympics.
In 1973 Stevenson was 9-1 defeating
Cemerys by first round knockout. His only loss was to Igor Visotsky
3-2 of Russia. In 1974 he was 18-0 including a win over the USA’s
Marvin Stinson who would be an alternate in 1976 to Olympian John
Tate. In 1975 he had his 23 bout winning streak stopped by Galvez by
walk over. He would win his next 14 bouts that year including the
USA’s Michael Dokes who would later become a professional champion.
This was for the Pan Am Games Gold in Mexico City, MEX.
In 1976 Stevenson won his first seven
fights before again losing to Visotsky by knockout in 3 in Belarus,
Minsk. It makes one wonder if Stevenson was 0-2 against Visotsky then
just how good the Russian would have been professionally? Stevenson
would win his next four fights.
At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal he
stopped Mamadou Drame of Senegal in 2 rounds with a barrage of
punches and Peka Roukkola of Finland in the 1. In the semi-finals he
faced future professional champion John Tate in the first round.
Tate suffered a bad cut along his left eye brow in his previous
fight. In 1:30 of the first round a straight right hand followed a
jab and Tate wobbled away and finally dropped in the corner and was
counted out. Former world champ George Foreman was at ringside with
Howard Cosell and said Stevenson would be a world champion as a
professional no matter who he fought. In the championship round
Stevenson stopped Mircea Simon of Romania landing a right hand that
took Simon’s right foot out from under him and down in 3 rounds for
his second Gold medal.
In 1977 Stevenson would go 12-0
including stopping USA’s Woody Clark. In 1978 he won 25 straight
before defeating USA’s Jimmy Clark 2-1 in Cuba in a close fight.
He was 21-0 that year with 8 knockouts. In 1978 he was 21-0 with 15
by knockout including a win over future world champion Tony Tubbs in
Belgrado, Yugoslavia, at the World Championships. In his last fight
of the year he defeated Jimmy Clark by stopping him in the first
round in New York. Jimmy claim’s “they stopped it with 30
seconds to go” which meant the 3rd round.
In 1979 Stevenson was 17-0 including
stopping USA’s Phillip Brown and Rufus Hadley both in the first
round. Hadley was in the Pan Am Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In
the final he defeated Marciso Maldonado of PR for the Gold medal. In
1980 he defeated Jimmy Clark in their third meeting. He had won 68
straight when he lost to fellow Cuban Angel Milian by walk over in
June. The following month he was in his third Olympics defeating
Solomon Ataga from NIG with a straight right hand in the first round.
Ataga beat the count but was in no condition to continue. Stevenson
then stopped the POL, and decisioned the HUN 5-0 before defeating
Pyotr Zayev of Russia for his third Gold Medal. Though the score
was 4-1, he dominated the much shorter Zayev with his jab the entire
In 1981 Stevenson won all his 4 bouts
and all in Cuba including beating Jorge Luis Gonzalez, a future
professional from Cuba. In 1982 Stevenson was 10-2 losing to Ulli
Kaden of East Germany by disqualification in East Germany. He also
lost later in the year to Italy’s Francesco Damiani a future world
champion, in Munich. In his last fight of that year he stopped USA’s
Tyrell Biggs in the third round. Biggs would take the 1984 Gold
since Cuba would not participate. In 1983 it seemed Stevenson was
losing his dominance losing 4 out of 6 fights. He lost to Gonzalez
and Kaden along with Aleksandr Lukstin of Russia and USA’s Craig
Payne. In his last bout of the year he stopped Biggs in 3.
In 1984 things seemed to pick-up as
Stevenson went 12-0. He defeated Biggs by decision and Kaden 3
times, with the last 2 by knockout. “Stevenson hurt my ribs in
beating me in our first match but I thought I won our last match in
1984,” said Tyrell Biggs. It was a close fight with Biggs getting
rocked at the end when a right from Stevenson spun him around.
In Stevenson’s final year of boxing
in 1985 he was 16-4. He started the year off losing to Felix Lemus
of Cuba and Vyacheslav Jakovlev of Russia. He would defeat both in
rematches that year. He would be 2-1 against Kaden winning their
series 6-3. He also had a loss to Osvaldo Castillo of Cuba before
winning his last 4 bouts including a stoppage of USA’s Alex Garcia,
a future professional in his last bout of his career in Reno, NV, for
the World Championships.
Overall Stevenson’s final record was
302-22. Not only was he 3-time Olympic champion but 2-time Pan Am
Game’s champion and 3-times World champion. He defeated future
world champions Michael Dokes, John Tate, Tony Tubbs and lost to
Francesco Damiani. There is no doubt Stevenson would have been a top
contender and depending who was champion at the time possibly a world
champion in the professional ranks. He stuck to his guns and stayed
in Cuba giving up millions. Stevenson will be 60 in March of 2012.
Though doubtful he would have defeated Ali, Stevenson will go down as
one of the all-time great amateur boxers! .
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