Just the sight of him is enough to make a grown fight manager cry. No doubt Angelo Dundee dreams about him regularly and he must surely be a steady inhabitant of Duane Bobick's nightmares. The guy stands 6'3" and he weighs 214 pounds—with most of it looming in wide, powerful shoulders, a deep chest and long, heavily muscled arms. Given two, maybe three more years, he probably could become the professional heavyweight champion of the world. But he most assuredly will not.
Last week, at the XII Central American and Caribbean Games in Santo Domingo, Cuba's Teofilo Stevenson whacked out his opposition, a Costa Rican and a Venezuelan, with about as much effort as most men would take to net butterflies. He won the championship of the Games, of course. No one—least of all his opponents—expected anything less. And during the course of the week, Stevenson again was approached by an unidentified U.S. fight promoter with an offer of $1 million to defect and take up a pro career.
It was an offer Stevenson could refuse; it was, in fact, the second such offer. He had been approached with a million-dollar deal in Munich after winning the Olympic championship by default over a Rumanian. Stevenson had savagely battered U.S. hopeful Bobick in an earlier bout while millions watched on TV and marveled at his powers.
But there is no chance Stevenson will leave Cuba. "No," he said last week, "no, I will not leave my country for one million dollars or for much more than that. What is a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?"
Stevenson has a flat, handsome face with high cheekbones, a snub nose and a wide mouth. Just under his right eye there is a faint smudge of darkened skin, a scar that is the only mark he has to show for some 100 amateur bouts, of which he says he has lost only two. No one knows how many fights he has had. He started at 16, figures he fights about 15 times a year and he will be 23 on March 29.
"I like boxing," he said in the Games Village. "My father, he was a boxer when he was a young man, but not so good as me. I have two younger brothers, but they play baseball, and two younger sisters, but they could not be boxers, no?"
He laughed at that. On the public-address system, a Dominican band was doing indescribable things to a merengue and Stevenson wheeled into a few graceful dance steps. Three girls who had come into the Village with the Puerto Rican team watched him, then applauded, and he waved to them. He looked at them for a long moment and smiled, a bit wistfully.
"Oh, well," he said and turned away. "The boxing. I have seen the professionals on the television. For me, I think Muhammad Ali is the best. Even now, I think there are some I could beat. That Canadian. What is his name? Chuvalo. Chuvalo I could beat. And Oscar Bonavena and Floyd Patterson. The others I am not so sure and I will never know. Maybe it would take time."
It probably would take time. But not a great deal. Bob Surkein, head referee for the Games and a veteran of more than 30 years of refereeing amateur bouts, has seen every Olympic heavyweight champion since 1948. A former boxer himself, he is a fine judge.
" Stevenson is the best," he says flatly. "Better than Foreman or Frazier and as good as Ali, but Ali fought as a light heavy in the Olympics. Stevenson has quick hands and he already moves almost as well as Ali—and he's bigger. He is a classic boxer, like all the Cubans. He has a strong jab and a punishing one. He turns his hand over as he punches so he makes contact with his palm down, with all four knuckles at once. He has a tremendous straight right. He doesn't hook much, because the Cubans are taught by Russians, who don't like to hook. But I've seen him hook off the jab and do it very well. He has gained about 10 or 12 pounds since Munich, all of it in the upper body. He's got a neck like a fighting bull."