Teofilo Stevenson

John Paul Rathbone

Teofilo Stevenson waves to the crowd at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. (AP Photo)

Teofilo Stevenson at the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. (AP Photo)

Havana has just lost a hero. Teofilo Stevenson, perhaps one of the world’s greatest boxers, has died of a heart attack. He was 60. Ironically, the 6ft 3-1/2 inch super heavyweight is most famous for a fight that never happened: a bout with Muhammad Ali.

Stevenson was reputedly offered $1m by Don King, the promoter, to fight Ali after he won his first Olympic gold medal in Munich in 1972. Stevenson said he didn’t want to go professional, and replied, “I would rather the affection of eight million Cubans.” Sports Illustrated ran the headline: “He’d rather be red than rich.

Inevitably, Stevenson’s reputation was carefully cultivated by the Cuban government. Yet sport, they say, transcends politics and so I don’t suppose I really care about that. Instead, what I remember best is of holidays in Miami in the 1970s and 80s with my Cuban family, when we would all gather round the television and cheer Stevenson along. Read more