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PORTSIDE  June 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE June 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Teofilo Stevenson 1952-2012

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

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[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 23:18:11 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (170 lines)

Teofilo Stevenson: The Amateur Boxer Who Chose Cuba
over a Million Dollars

    Offered a fortune to fight Muhammad Ali,
    Stevenson said he'd rather keep the love of his
    people, which he did until the end

Cuban champion boxer Teofilo Stevenson on the podium
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images http://tinyurl.com/7gsfob9

By Kevin Mitchell 
Guardian (UK) June 13, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/13/teofilo-stevenson-amateur-boxer-cuba?CMP=twt_gu

In the iconography of post-revolutionary Cuba, one
athlete stands above many others alongside Fidel Castro
and Che Guevara. When the greatest heavyweight in the
history of amateur boxing, Teofilo Stevenson, died this
week at the age of 60, he took with him a little of the
past that probably will never be revisited.

It is hard to imagine in this era of readjustment after
the cold war that any athlete who would so dramatically
attach his loyalty to his ideals the way Stevenson did
in 1974, when the American boxing promoters Bob Arum
and Don King tried, separately, to entice him away from
Cuba to fight Muhammad Ali.

Had he gone, he might well have won. Ali was in the
fading days of his brilliant career and Stevenson, at
22, had just won the first of the three Olympic gold
medals that would secure his place in boxing history,
with a murderous right hand and exquisite ring skills.
For a big man, he moved with the grace that Ali had
once owned. Although there were clear differences
between the skills of the three-round amateur sport and
the longer version of professional boxing, the call on
who would have prevailed ultimately was irrelevant;
Stevenson's real victory arrived in a single sentence.

As famous as he was as a boxer, he would become an
international standard bearer of the left with a short
and eloquent declaration: "What is a million dollars
worth compared to the love of eight million Cubans?"

The figure might have been $5m, or more. Soon, Don King
would promise Ali and George Foreman that much each to
take part in the Rumble In The Jungle, an event that
gave succour to Mbuto Sese Seko, dictator of Zaire, a
regime more obviously brutal than Castro's, yet not so
demonised by the US. It was not just the proximity of
Cuba that irritated the Americans, but the faith of its
people in Castro. Zaire could exist in African
isolation.

It was in this context that Stevenson's riposte was so
devastating, to not only the leading representatives of
professional boxing, but to the many and various
enemies of Cuba's socialist ideal: the CIA, the US
government and all the agents of capitalism who saw in
the unkillable struggle of a minor paradise off their
shores a threat to their hegemony and values. Thirteen
years earlier, the Bay of Pigs invasion had lasted a
mere three days. A string of exploding cigars and myths
followed, but Castro was immovable, and lingers still.
Until he died, Stevenson was still drinking rum, bathed
in the love of his people.

How things have changed. Che is long gone, assassinated
but immortalised, his image seared into millions of T-
shirts; the revolution has dissipated in
synchronisation with Castro's failing health - and
Cuba's amateur boxing system, still the best in the
world, endures a steady trickle of defections across
the water.

When the Cuban team arrive in London for the Olympics,
they will have no Stevenson, no obvious talisman of
their revolution. They will have a strong, well-drilled
team capable of again winning several medals on behalf
of their 10 million compadres. They will enjoy the
adoration of the boxing community and, inevitably, will
be tempted by the fruits of the west. Some might not
resist that temptation.

Since 1974, several boxers have defected. At least half
a dozen are currently prominent in the professional
game, including the 2004 Olympic super-heavyweight gold
medalist Odlanier Solis. He beat David Haye in the
final of the world amateur championships in 2001, won
gold in Athens and defected in 2006. Solis fought for
the world title, falling on a twisted knee in the first
round against Vitali Klitschko last year. He has boxed
once since, weighing a flabby 267lbs. He is no
Stevenson.

Teofilo - whose father boxed before the revolution,
when the mob ran the professional sport and laundered
its money in the nightclubs of Havana - first stepped
into a ring aged nine, two years after the fall of the
Batista regime. Around that time Castro declared
professional boxing, for so long a sporting staple of
the island, illegal. From there on, glory would be
unpaid but universal.

For Stevenson, there was never any question of
abandoning Cuba. Not only was he a believer, he was
actually adored in his own country. He was feted by the
government, indulged in an idyllic life among people
who asked no more of him than he stay.

Stevenson owed everything he had to boxing and a regime
that saw in its raw appeal an instrument of propaganda,
as well as a reason to feel proud. It was a mutually
pleasant arrangement.
____________

Fidel Castro''s Reflections: Teofilo Stevenson

Prensa Latina June 13, 2012

http://www.prensa-latina.cu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=516167&Itemid=1

Havana,

The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, dedicated 
his latest reflection to recent deceased Cuban boxer 
Teofilo Stevenson.

The  full text of Fidel Castro's reflection.

Reflections By Comrade Fidel

TEOFILO STEVENSON

Stevenson has left us. The news arrived yesterday after 
4:00 p.m. No other amateur boxer shone so much in the 
history of that sport. He could have achieved another two 
Olympic titles had not it been for certain duties that the 
principles of internationalism imposed on the Revolution. 
o money in the world would have been enough to bribe 
Stevenson.

Glory be to his memory forever!

Fidel Castro Ruz

June 12, 2012

3:15 p.m.

___________________________________________

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