Stevenson is single and lives in Havana with his parents and brothers and sisters. His life is centered on boxing, but he also is studying electrical engineering and is president of the Havana Communist youth group. He spends considerable time working with youngsters.
"I am not now a very good student," he said. "There are so many things on my mind, most of all the boxing. I would like to win the Olympic championship two more times, in Montreal and in Moscow, then I will devote myself to the studies and to the little ones. That, I think, will be a very good life."
Unfortunately for Angelo Dundee, Teddy Brenner, Bob Arum and the rest of the wheeler-dealers of professional boxing, there is no doubt of Stevenson's sincerity. Although he was born in Jamaica, he is a totally loyal Cuban. He was under no immediate surveillance in his conversations and he could easily have indicated that he would, indeed, be interested in a million dollars. But there was absolutely no hint of that.
Within their enclave in the miniature Games Village, the Cubans were surprisingly easygoing and lighthearted. One afternoon, waiting to begin training, Stevenson stretched out on the tile floor of a porch, rested his head on his duffel bag and dropped off almost at once into a deep sleep. Fifteen minutes later Manuel Gonzales Guerra, the august president of the Cuban Olympic Committee, awakened him by sitting on his middle. Stevenson laughed hugely, got up and feigned a punch at Guerra, then went docilely and efficiently through a strenuous workout.
Two nights later, in the Stadio Eugenio Maria de Hostos, an arena that seems suited more for cockfights than boxing—it seats maybe 1,000 fans uncomfortably on cement benches—Stevenson fought Costa Rican heavyweight Rafael Vega, a much smaller man. From the beginning, Vega attacked wildly, with the hopeless courage of a Christian determined to bite the lion before being eaten.
Stevenson's face, so expressive in conversation, is impassive in the ring. He brushed away Vega's punches easily, using a long left hand, appearing almost lazy and unconcerned. Then he was warned by the referee to mix it up and he nodded.
Stevenson snapped Vega's head back with a lovely long left jab and, in practically the same motion, hooked viciously to the head with his left, leaving the Costa Rican stumbling sideways. Then came the straight right hand, with all the leverage of the height and the wide shoulders, the punch traveling down a little at the smaller man. It caught Vega squarely on the cheek and dropped him as if he had been hit with a baseball bat. When he was finally revived and brought to stand with Stevenson under the puny light of the five small bulbs illuminating the ring, Vega looked vastly relieved.
Next man up in the Saturday night finals was Venezuelan Carlos Rivera, almost as big as Stevenson. But he lasted just a bit longer than Vega. Stevenson spent the first round languidly stalking his rapidly retreating adversary, flicking his long left jab more to measure the shooting range than to do any damage. Late in the round he dropped in the right hand behind the jab and staggered Rivera, but the bell rang before he could follow up.
Stevenson came out briskly in the second, obviously ready to clear up the night's work. He jabbed Rivera sharply twice, then swung a short, hard left hook. The punch cut a tight are under Rivera's guard and thumped home into the belly with the sound of a wet bass drum being struck. When Rivera doubled over in pain, Stevenson hooked again with the left, catching his man on the jaw. Rivera dropped on his back. He tried to get up, but it was a good 10 minutes before he was strong enough to stand and accept his second-place medal.
When the Games were over, the Cubans had won six gold medals in boxing, plus just about everything in wrestling, track and field, water polo and all other events except swimming. And, satisfied with the show, they pointed out that Stevenson is just one of their good heavyweights.