Cuba says goodbye to boxing great Teofilo Stevenson
HAVANA, (Reuters) - Cuba said goodbye yesterday to heavyweight boxing great Teofilo Stevenson, who won three Olympic gold medals and became a symbol of communist pride when he refused to fight for money.
A day after he died of a heart attack at age 60, Stevenson was buried in Havana’s historic Colon Cemetery, where about 200 people gave him a long round of applause and sang the Cuban national anthem.
Earlier, a steady stream of admirers and fellow athletes filed past his flag-draped casket in a noisy, crowded Havana funeral home to pay last respects to a boxer whose importance in Cuba transcended sports.
Atop the partially opened casket rested a pair of red boxing gloves. Around it were sprays of flowers from dignitaries, including Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, his younger brother President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
The big body of Stevenson, dressed in a suit and tie, appeared to barely fit in the metal coffin.
At his peak, Stevenson was a symbol of the purity of amateur sport idealized by Fidel Castro, who banned professional athletics after taking power in Cuba’s 1959 revolution. He was also a powerful propaganda tool for the island’s communist system.
Tall, graceful and powerful, he was considered by many the equal of Muhammad Ali, the professional heavyweight boxing champion who himself won an Olympic gold medal in 1960, but he rejected a $5 million offer to fight him.
Stevenson, who came from humble beginnings in the eastern province of Las Tunas, strode on to the world boxing stage in the 1972 Munich Olympics, where at the age of 20 he battered a heavily favored American Duane Bobick, en route to his first gold medal.