Tuesday, 11 June 2019 22:24

The Day that Cuba Mourned Teo

Written by Dubler R. Vázquez Colomé
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Seven years after his death blew out in the chin of an entire country, Teófilo Stévenson continues to be a vital presence, of joyful remembrance for those who knew him up close and found out first-hand his human greatness.

 

Las Tunas, Cuba.- On June 11, 2012 his heart stopped beating and the legend of Pirolo was born, the boy from Delicias who climbed to the top of the world with his three Olympic and World titles. The best amateur boxer of all time, however, was loved much more for his nobility and naturalness.

So we return today on this chronicle to Teo, the giant from Las Tunas who preferred the affection of his people over any material good, the eternal child who returns smiling every year to his land, completely alien to the enormous myth that he will always be.

It has been said that the house of Teófilo Stévenson in the Flores district, in the municipality of Playa, was called the "Embassy of Las Tunas in Havana".

Those who knew him most say that he could not bear to see a person from LasTunas high and dry in the capital. And many times, instead of looking for another solution, he simply took them to his house, arranged them as well as possible. And if Delicias was mentioned during the conversation and it was mediated by the indispensable drink of rum, then the night stretched and the best amateur boxer of all times became a chef while he was playing dominoes, and only had two rules: he could not lose and everyone should allow him to talk about his memories and nostalgia until dawn.

After so many years and so much traveling the world, Teófilo was happier when he returned to that unruly and cheerful boy who everyone called Pirolo back in the 50's of the 20th century. The boy who first wanted to be a baseball player, but who was guessed another future by the strict way in which he resolved with his fists the brawls he used to get into.

He was born among the unmistakable aroma of molasses, at the doors of the Delicias sugar mill, the largest in Cuba. Those who saw him in action long afterwards, while giving away the only shoes he brought, or claim the same preferential treatment for the driver who moved him, assure that the sweetness never left his eyes.

Even though he had spread terror everywhere he was. The quadrilaterals of the world were accustomed to their terrible elegance, to their stuck perhaps indulgent, which put a quick end to the ordeal of the rival. Thus he added three world crowns and the same number of Olympics'. Thus he climbed to the summit that he shares with the greatest: Joe Luis, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Mohamed Ali.

But neither his unrepeatable titles, nor that symbolic victory before the "White Hope" in the Olympic Games of Munich '72, can be compared with his human stature.

"He was a man who always thought of the rest, at the cost, even of taking his own, I can certify that he was bigger as a person than as a boxer, which would seem crazy," the legendary journalist Elio Menéndez said sometime.

Because Teófilo was able not only to reject a million dollars to remain with his people, but he descended from the pedestal in which he never wanted to be, and met the people on foot who idolized him; he gave them his hand and his best clothes, shared a plate of rice and beans and his money, enjoyed a watery coffee in a modest home, while giving away a closeness that never ceased amazing everyone.

He naturally had the power to radiate joy and, he was able to dance with Van Van on a stage or to contrive a private party at home that nobody could leave if the champion did not authorize.

For this reason, this day, Cubans remember a man who, as a great man, lived pending the small things, those closest to the heart. Pirolo is child of six decades and a half, who is still in the train tracks, stirring up Delicias.

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