Seven days after three-time Olympic gold medalist Teófilo Stevenson passed away, GRACIEMAG.com puts together an article to pay tribute to the mythical pugilist.
The victim of a heart attack on the 11th of this month in Havana, the 60-year-old Cuban fighter left some precious lessons for those who practice and appreciate martial arts.
1. TIME IS A GREAT TEACHER
Fidel Castro’s favorite fighter was the beneficiary of great trainers, like former Cuban champion John Herrera, from the outset of his career forward. It was years of dedication, however, that made the difference. Stevenson started at nine years of age, accumulating eight years’ worth of experience before making his debut as an adult. Not too many people have the good fortune of training since such a tender age, but one needs to understand that many hours of flight time will take you a long way.
2. DEBUT WITH A LOSS
Teófilo Stevenson has his place reserved in the history of fighting, thanks to the three Olympic gold medals (1972/76/80) he won—in boxing, only two other men have accomplished such a feat: Hungary’s László Papp and also-Cuban Félix Savón. And he probably would have won a fourth had it not been for the boycott on the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984. Interestingly, although he is now seen as a superhuman fighter, he started out losing, like every “white belt.” It happened on his debut as an adult, to the more experienced Gabriel Garcia. Learn from Teófilo and persevere. Sometimes results are merely trifles.
(Watch the pugilist at the Pan-American Games of 1975, in Mexico:)
3. REPETITIONS AND MORE REPETITIONS
At a certain point in his career, his coaches noticed that Stevenson’s jab needed some honing. And it was precisely the Cuban’s potent jab that was a cornerstone of his career, taking him to the mark of 302 wins and just 22 defeats. Before heading to the gym, ask yourself, ‘Where am I weak? Where am I strong?’ Find your strengths and weaknesses, and talk to your coaches about shoring them up. It can make all the difference at your next competition or training session.
4. SELF-KNOWLEDGE, DESIRE AND MONEY
One time, the Cuban fighter was offered 5 million dollars to turn pro and take on Muhammad Ali in a title fight right off the bat. Stevenson declined. He preferred to stay in Cuba, to inspire the youth and be an hero in his home country. What drives you? Is it just money? If all you fight for is money, then that can shorten your path significantly, when the money ain’t much. Or worse, when the money’s a-plenty.
5. WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THAT THE OTHERS DON’T?
Like Ali, Stevenson fused the power and reach of a heavyweight with the agility and speed of a lightweight. What aspects and qualities do you have that the rest of your division doesn’t? Invest in that and be the best you can be.
6. FIGHTING, SPORT AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
After hanging up his gloves, the champion went on to teach young fighters on the Cuban national team. He forged champions and men, and saw how teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. Therein lies perhaps the greatest teaching Teófilo left, which to some wise men is the meaning of life on this planet: first, find out what you really do well. Then, pass it onwards.