Foreman: Stevenson was better than Ali

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
10:42
AM ET
The press in Cuba doesn't enjoy the same freedom ours does, so when word emerged that boxing star Teofilo Stevenson had died on June 11, I wondered how much of what would emerge would be truth and how much would be propaganda.

I turned to Bobby Cassidy Jr., a writer-filmmaker-playwrite living on Long Island. He created the documentary, "A Fighting Chance," which delves into the Cuban boxer experience.

Since I couldn't dig up much stuff on Stevenson after he left the ring, I asked Cassidy to fill in the gaps for me.

"Basically, he was living the life of a celebrity, as much as you can live that life in Cuba," Cassidy told me. "He was treated like a rock star. He drank a lot. People waved at him and honked their horns all the time when they saw him. He held some perfunctory positions with the boxing team. He would travel often with the team. But he was more of an ambassador for the sports programs and for the revolution.

"I asked him how come he didn't train fighters, like so many of his contemporaries did. He said, with a smile, 'I've spent enough time in gyms.' Castro loved him. He was Fidel's favorite athlete because, really, he was the face of the machine for so long. He was the first Cuban athlete to become an international star under Castro."

And just how good was he? In his heyday, how would Stevenson have fared against the top dogs on the 70s, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman?

I posed the question to Foreman. "Stevenson was better than all of us," the Hall of Famer declared. "He took his time like a pro. Then he came at you. He had the best right hand in amateur history. He never turned pro ... a shame. He'd have kept the heavyweight title the same way he did in the amateurs."
Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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