International Boxing Hall of Fame

Emile Griffith

 

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Statistics
Real name Emile Alphonse Griffith
Rated at Welterweight
Nationality Flag of the United States Virgin Islands United States Virgin Islands
Birth date February 3, 1938 (1938-02-03) (age 70)
Birth place Saint Thomas, U.S.V.I.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 112
Wins 85
Wins by KO 23
Losses 24
Draws 2
No contests 1

Emile Alphonse Griffith (born February 3, 1938) is a former boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands who won world championships in both the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions. He was the first boxer from the U.S. Virgin Islands ever to become a world champion. While Griffith is recognized in some boxing books as being a three division world champion, his claim to the Junior Middleweight title was not generally recognized.

Amateur career

Griffith won the 1958 New York Golden Gloves 147lb Open Championship. Griffith defeated Osvaldo Marcano of the Police Athletic Leagues Lynch Center in the finals to win the Championship. In 1957 Griffith advanced to the finals of the 147lb Sub-Novice division and was defeated by Charles Wormley of the Salem Crescent Athletic Club. Griffith trained at the West 28th Street Parks Department Gym in New York City.

Pro career

Griffith, who turned professional in 1958 and fought frequently in New York City, is best remembered for his televised third fight against Benny "the Kid" Paret on March 24, 1962. Fighting for the welterweight title, Paret and Griffith boxed a close fight until round twelve, when Griffith knocked Paret unconscious, yet stood, still propped up against the ropes. The referee failed to stop the fight, and Griffith struck Paret thirteen more times. Paret never regained consciousness, and he died nine days later.

Paret was the first of only two people ever to be killed at the hands of another on live, over-the-air, national television, the other occurring just a year and a half later with the slaying of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963.[citation needed]

This incident, and the widespread publicity and criticism of boxing which accompanied it, became the basis of the documentary Ring of Fire. NBC, which televised the fatal bout, ended its boxing broadcasts and other U.S. networks followed; the sport would not return to free television until the 1970s.

Griffith was traumatized by Paret's death. Ironically, even before the fight, Griffith had never been known for having a hard punch or being vicious towards his opponents. Going into the fight, his record was 28-3 with only ten knockouts.

Sports Illustrated reported in its April 18, 2005, edition that Griffith's rage may have been fueled by an anti-gay slur directed at him by Paret during the weigh-in. Paret reportedly called his opponent a maricón, the Spanish equivalent of "faggot"; Griffith, whose sexual orientation has been questioned, nearly went after him on the spot and had to be restrained. The slur was ignored by the media at the time. The article pointed out that it would have been career suicide for an athlete or any other celebrity during the 1960s to admit that he was gay.

Griffith was not prosecuted for Paret's death. He later defeated Dick Tiger for the Middleweight title. He also lost, regained and then lost the middleweight title in three classic fights with Nino Benvenuti. But many boxing fans believed he was never quite the same fighter after Paret's death. From the Paret bout to his retirement in 1977, Griffith fought 80 bouts but only scored twelve knockouts. He later admitted to being gentler with his opponents and relying on his superior boxing skills, because he was terrified of killing another in the ring. Like so many other fighters, Griffith fought well past his prime. He won only nine of his last twenty three fights.

Other boxers he fought in his career were the world champions Denny Moyer, Luis Rodriguez, Carlos Monzon, Dick Tiger, Jose Napoles and in his last title try, Eckhard Dagge. After 18 years as a professional boxer, Griffith retired with a record of 85 wins (25 by knockout), 24 losses and 2 draws.

Life after boxing

He has trained other boxers during his retirement, including Wilfredo Benitez and Juan Laporte, of Puerto Rico. Both have won world championships. Griffith, Monzon, Benvenuti, Rodriguez, Tiger, Napoles and Benitez are members of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.

Assault

In 1992, Griffith was viciously beaten and almost killed on a New York City street, after leaving a gay bar. Today, Griffith requires full time care and suffers from pugilistic dementia. Griffith admits that he has had nightmares for forty years about the tragic bout and still feels tremendous guilt over the death of Benny Paret. In the last scene of Ring Of Fire, Griffith was introduced to Benny Paret's son. The son embraced the elderly fighter and told him he was forgiven. However, Paret's widow Lucy could not bring herself to meet him.

Honors

Named Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year for 1964.

Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in its initial year (1990) and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

Preceded by
Benny (Kid) Paret
World Welterweight Champion
1 Apr 1961– 30 Sep 1961
Succeeded by
Benny (Kid) Paret
World Welterweight Champion
24 Mar 1962– 21 Mar 1963
Succeeded by
Luis Rodriguez
Preceded by
Inaugural Champion
World Light Middleweight Champion
Recognized by Austrian Boxing Board of Control
17 Oct 1962– 1963
Abandons Title
Succeeded by
Denny Moyer
Recognized by
WBA
Preceded by
Luis Rodriguez
World Welterweight Champion
8 Jun 1963– 25 Apr 1966
Vacates
Succeeded by
Curtis Cokes
Preceded by
Dick Tiger
World Middleweight Champion
25 Apr 1966– 17 Apr 1967
Succeeded by
Nino Benvenuti
Preceded by
Nino Benvenuti
World Middleweight Champion
29 Sep 1967– 4 Mar 1968