Cuban heavyweight boxing great Teofilo Stevenson, who won three Olympic gold medals, has died of a heart attack at the age of 60, according to Cuban state media reports.
"The Cuban sporting family was moved today by the passing of one of the greatest of all time," said a statement read on the news on Monday night.
"He'd Rather Be Red Than Rich."
- Headline in Sports Illustrated magazine
Stevenson was born on March 29, 1952, to a family of modest means, in Las Tunas province in eastern Cuba.
He fought in his first match at the age of 14, and two years later won his first international title in the Central American and Caribbean championship.
Known affectionately on the island by the nickname "Pirolo", Stevenson was famous for his punishing right, polished technique, deft hand and footwork, and his sportsmanship.
Loyal to Cuban revolution
Considered by some to be the most accomplished amateur boxer in history, Stevenson first won gold in 1972 in Munich and followed that up in 1976 at Montreal.
In 1980, he won his third Olympic title in Moscow, becoming the second boxer to win gold at three separate games after Hungarian Lazlo Papp.
Felix Savon, Stevenson's countryman, accomplished the feat in 2000.
He refused an offer of $5m from US boxing promoters to turn professional and fight Mohammad Ali, then heavyweight champion of the world, reportedly saying "what is $1m compared to the love of 8 million Cubans"?
After Stevenson won his first world title in 1974, Sports Illustrated magazine ran the headline: "He'd Rather Be Red Than Rich."
He stayed loyal to the Cuban revolution, which outlawed professional sports.
In his later years, Stevenson became a coach of Cuban boxers and served as vice president of Cuba's boxing federation and at the island's national sports institute. He had two children.
In January this year, Stevenson spent 15 days in intensive care after doctors detected a clot in an artery near his heart. He was released a month later.
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|F. William Engdahl|